So, I have a weird job in that I, literally, talk to people about getting their estate plans up to date many times a week. And I\’ve done this for TEN YEARS. Over and over, people tell me that they\’ve been procrastinating and feel badly that they haven\’t gotten things taken care of.

And I listen. In fact, my first question is almost always what prompted my clients to finally make the appointment and get the job done. It\’s almost always one of these four things:

  • An upcoming trip.
  • A scary diagnosis or test.
  • A death in the family or a death of a friend.
  • The birth of a child.

Let\’s face it, these are the things that get our attention in a deep way. They make mortality real and make you want to do what we can to get things in order. Until something like this grabs you, there are always 200 other \’important\’ things to capture your time and energy.

And here\’s my confession: despite my professional focus on estate planning, there was actually a time – now thankfully in the past — when my family\’s estate plan was out of date for at least four years! Really.

So many things happened to upset our plans:

  • Our guardian got divorced.
  • Her kids grew up to not get along with ours.
  • Our financial situation changed drastically.
  • Every single thing about the plan wouldn\’t work.

And guess what? Do you know what made me fix it? It certainly wasn\’t because I knew we should. It was reasons one and two on the above list. Not only had we planned our first family trip that required airplane travel to a distant and slightly tropical local, but the week we got back my husband faced major spine surgery. There is nothing like filling out hospital admittance papers to get your mortality juices flowing.

So, we redid our plan. We changed our guardians. We simplified our trust for tax planning. We updated our Durable Powers of Attorney and our Advance Health Care Directives. And it felt GREAT to finally fix it.  Next up: We need to take a look at our earthquake kit, something that’s important to California residents. And also woefully out of date.

Believe me, I get it if you can\’t focus on estate planning right this second. But, please, next time life reaches out and grabs your attention, jump on it. You\’ll feel better, I can almost promise.

Liza Weiman Hanks is an attorney who specializes in estate planning for families of all ages. She is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. A graduate of Stanford Law School, she has also served as an instructor at the Santa Clara University Law School and practiced with the state of California and a prestigious Silicon Valley firm. Liza is also the author of The Mom\’s Guide to Wills and Estate Planning and The Trustee\’s Legal Companion. She lives with her family in Campbell, California.