moneycontrol, Mar 31, 2021
Aside from thinking of death when it comes to making a Will, many of us procrastinate on our estate planning because we think it could lead to a family feud later. Ironically, not leaving a Will behind can lead to a family feud later.
When you are put into situations to undertake activities that maybe important but emotionally challenging, its human nature to either procrastinate or justify your stance with excuses for not undertaking the activity. The idea of devising a plan to pass on your wealth is one such activity that attracts significant resistance.
Avoiding the ‘D’ talk
Estate Planning is often associated with your last day in this world. Who would like to plan for such a morbid event? To add to this, the topic of estate planning has been made taboo due to many time-honored cultural reasons too. Perhaps if you are drawing your Will, you think that you are attracting your last day closer to you. However, when it comes to buying a life insurance policy such a reasoning is absent. Despite considering yourself as the most rational decision-maker, you do tend to be irrational when it comes to planning for the most important aspect of your lifetime.
Spending about 90,000 hours of your life at work (as mentioned by Jessica Pryce-Jones in her book, Happiness at Work) in creating wealth for your loved ones and yourself, you possibly spend negligible or no time to ensure your wealth is protected, preserved and seamlessly passed onto your loved ones.
Tip: Writing a Will is not a negative thing to do. See it as an opportunity to pass your hard-earned wealth in a structured and well-thought manner as the best gift to your family.
You like to plan for events where you can witness the results
Further the lackluster attitude to plan may be attributed to the fact that you won’t be present to witness the results of such a plan.
This is partially true. Estate Planning enables you to not only plan how your wealth will be distributed after your lifetime but also helps you use tools such as private family trust, gift deed, power of attorneys and so on that will be beneficial during your lifetime too. It is important to have a holistic approach to this exercise to safeguard the interests of both your family and you.
Tip: Think about making arrangements during your lifetime for how your money would be used, once you are gone.
Fear of pandora’s box of family conflicts
Fear is another reason for procrastinating to plan. Often individuals are apprehensive that undertaking the exercise of merely writing your Will may open a pandora’s box of family conflicts. Though you have always been taught “Failing to plan is planning to fail” ironically you tend to ignore planning for the most important event of your lifetime. Of course, estate planning is a sensitive topic wherein you also need to consider the emotional aspects attached to it but not at the cost of ignoring it completely.
Tip: Plan ahead, way ahead. Write a will when you are in your 40s, by which time your progeny is more or less decided and you have a clear idea of how you would want your wealth to be distributed. Infact, in the absence of a Will, family conflicts are quite possible. A well-written, well-planned and documented Will can avoid conflicts later if there are multiple heirs.
Behavioral biases take you away from rationality
As in the case of investments, you tend to hold onto similar biases when it comes to planning for your estate too. A popular bias being holding onto the belief that what has happened in the past is going to repeat in the future as well (known as extrapolation bias).
For instance, if your forefathers never prepared a Will or undertook any sort of estate planning, you tend to believe your family too will be able to inherit your estate hassle-free without a plan. Notwithstanding the fact, that times have changed wherein assets are no longer simple, regulations are ever evolving and processes to inherit are cumbersome as compared to the days of our ancestors.
Further, your social circle also tends to influence you whereby you fall for the herd mentality.
Tip: It is important you think independently as to what is important for your loved ones. To avoid the pitfalls of not having an estate plan, it’s fine to take ‘the road less travelled’.
As you tend to believe that an estate plan has greater relevance post your lifetime, you tend to procrastinate as you do not see its relevance ‘now’. Also, the fact that you have to deal with questions like ‘Which family member receives which asset?’ might be emotionally challenging.
The easiest coping strategy to deal with such emotional heavy situations is to procrastinate. However, life is unpredictable. Death doesn’t come knocking. Moreover, with age, you might become incapable and you may not remain one of a sound mind. At that time, making a Will can be next to impossible.
Tip: Making a Will should not be viewed as morbid. It’s a celebration as you get to choose the deserving candidates in your family to pass the baton. Ensure that your legacy continues and that your coming generations truly understands the worth of your estate and more importantly how much you care and love them.
SNEHA MAKHIJA is Head of Wealth Planning, Products & Solutions, Sanctum Wealth