Why Plan Your Estate When You’re Young?

Posted on November 17, 2010

Recently, a young woman whose business acumen I respect was critiquing my web site.  In passing, she mentioned that the subject matter of my web site was “dry, boring.”  Instead of taking umbrage at her remarks (I find the subject matter inherently interesting and I tend to get passionate about it), I tried to drill down to what might be at the root of her comments.

I analogize thinking about one’s death to thinking about preparing to deal with the possibility that one will have an automobile accident or a fire in one’s residence.  People routinely pay to prepare for such incidents without displaying any emotional avoidance symptoms, even though the likelihood of such incidents is not statistically very probable.  When I was studying for my Certified Financial Planner degree, I remember learning that the likelihood of becoming disabled for a young person was 4 times higher than the chances of dying.

The key characteristic of these type of incidents is Low Probability—Big Loss.

So why is thinking about estate planning different?  In a word: death.  Nobody likes to contemplate the world without them in it.  I’m reminded of Woody Allen in the movie “Annie Hall”, when Annie tried to tell him something he didn’t want to hear.  He covered his ears and loudly repeated “Wooo, wooo, wooo!”  When it comes to death, we seem to believe that if we don’t think about it, it won’t happen.  This is a refusal to think maturely about the possibility of our own demise.  Possibility is a polite way of putting it.  Certainty is more realistic.  What we really don’t want to consider is that however certain it is, we don’t want to think that it might happen to us sooner rather than later.    In psychology, this is sometimes termed the Peter Pan syndrome—the behavior of not wanting to act like a grown-up who can face unpleasant realities.

As an alternative, I would argue for the Wendy syndrome: just because you’re sensible doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams (as in not dying or becoming disabled).   In other words, prepare for the worst, then live as if it’ll never happen.  This is what mature people do.  They don’t whistle while walking past the graveyard.

In the case of the woman critiquing my web site, she has a highly successful business with a mid-6-figure income.  For her, disability, in the form of a legal conservatorship, would be a potential disaster.  Without proper planning in place, her assets would be put under the control of the court system, with its loss of privacy, loss of control of those she chooses, and needless court oversight and legal expenses.

Trust-based planning would prevent such a “living” probate, provide for rational management of her valuable business, and provide a path for recovery of her abilities or a rational disposition of her business if she was ultimately deemed a long-term disabled person.

J. R. R. Tolkein, the author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, believed that by not finishing the Silmarillion, the sequel to the Rings trilogy, he could delay the day of his death.  As his friend, C. S. Lewis, affirmed,  100% of us die—the percentage cannot be increased.  Preparing for an untimely appearance of our own death is what grown-ups do.  If we do, perhaps we can experience what someone else once said: face your fears and your fears will go away.

One Response to “Why Plan Your Estate When You’re Young?”

  1. Edu Domain
    May 03, 2011

    Thanks, found the article on google…

    Nice Post mate…



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  1. Edu Domain says:

    Thanks, found the article on google…

    Nice Post mate…