Emotional Aspects of Estate Planning

The mere mention of certain words – such as “family,” “death,” or “disability” – can evoke a wide range of emotions from anyone. Such emotions can help motivate people to plan for the future, but can also interfere with proper estate planning.

When a family member or friend dies, there is a natural process of grieving, which can interfere with our ability to make decisions. In addition, grief can sometimes impact already-strained family relationships. A person’s death often terminates or changes relationships, especially if the deceased person was the only common link between other people. For example, a surviving spouse may have less contact with the deceased spouse’s children from a prior marriage.

Many of the emotions we feel after someone’s death are natural, healthy, and probably unavoidable. However, some emotional problems could be reduced or eliminated by advance planning. And consideration of the impact of probate proceedings and estate taxes can often avoid hardships.

Death is not the only event you should plan for. Due to illness or accident, many people become incapacitated, either for brief periods or permanently, and cannot make their own decisions. If you are disabled, your family and friends will be emotionally distraught and yet may need to make very important decisions for you.

Making decisions for an incapacitated person is always difficult. The person making the decisions will feel more comfortable if the incapacitated person has left advance instructions and has selected a specific person to make decisions.

Estate planning must address the emotional needs of your family, your friends, and yourself.