When George Burns was approaching 100 years of age he was asked if he ever thought about death. He replied, “How can I die? I’m booked.” Indeed, when he died in 1996 at age 100, he had unfulfilled performance contracts.
Perhaps Burns’ comment helps explain why some people procrastinate about estate planning. They fear that if they complete every estate planning document – will, trust, power of attorney, beneficiary designations, records of accounts and documents, and burial instructions – it is as if they are preparing to die. So long as some things remain undone, life must be extended until they are completed.
Of course, rationally we know that life is uncertain and that if it ends without having all our affairs in order, we may complicate the settlement of our estate, create problems for our heirs, and incur unnecessary taxes. However, preparing for the inevitable seems more terrifying than the risks of an incomplete plan.
George Burns was right about the importance of future plans. They do not make us immortal, but they increase the quality – and perhaps also the quantity – of life. However, it would be a mistake for these future plans to include estate planning, which should be done today.
Completing an estate plan need not be the start of winding down life. It can rather liberate us from the nagging awareness that we have left some important things undone and free us to focus on future dreams and aspirations. Knowing that we have made prudent financial plans and provision for the persons we love and the institutions we value, we can lay aside concerns about things undone, have peace of mind, and pursue our dreams. Then estate planning will not be so much preparation for death as embracing life.
It has been said that old age is when more and more things happen for the last time and fewer and fewer things for the first time. To some extent this is true, but more new things will grace the lives of those who dare to book the future with their dreams.
Your attorney will necessarily be the primary person to be consulted when you create or update an estate plan, but you may talk to other professionals as well. We can also assist you by providing information about the various ways you might include a legacy gift to Church Investors Fund, your church, the NAB Conference, or another NAB entity in your plan.