Why We Don't Complete Estate Plans by Bill High

Photo by  Nik MacMillan

Photo by Nik MacMillan

A 2016 WealthCounsel survey on estate planning offers some interesting insights on why Americans don’t complete their estate planning. Forty-three percent of Americans don’t have a will. Some of the reasons include the following:

  • 25% of respondents didn’t want to talk about an estate plan because they didn’t want to talk or think about their own death;

  • 29% say they aren’t wealthy enough to think about it;

  • 53% say that it is difficult to find an advisor they trust to create the plan.


The same WealthCounsel survey found that “confusion” best described how people felt about estate planning. Some of this finding can be attributed to the fact that 49% believed that estate planning is only for the wealthy.

Sixty-one percent believed that a will was sufficient to meet their needs and only 3% of respondents even mentioned “trusts.”

On the encouraging side, 74% of the respondents value professional guidance in understanding estate planning. A similar percentage believe that estate planning attorneys are the source for such guidance.

On that last point, while it is true that attorneys may offer the best legal advice, they may not be the best source to deal with the other issues related to an estate. So much in estate planning deals with the soft issues: What does family communication look like? Is there harmony? Are the children ready to receive?

Part of where we need to go with the estate planning conversation is to go beyond the legal issues to the larger family communication issues. Perhaps then we might see the level of confusion go down.

It’s these issues that tell us that we have much to do when it comes to this area of family finances.

Particularly for people of faith who have the hope of eternal life, our estate plans ought to be living documents that spell out a legacy beyond our lives.

When we see our estate plans as messages to the next generation and even to a generation we won’t meet, perhaps we won’t have such reluctance in entering into the discussion and the planning.