How Can You Stop Procrastinating and Create an Estate Plan?
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MARK RIEPE: There are things in life that almost nobody enjoys doing, but they have to be done, like visiting the dentist or paying taxes.
A big reason it's important to do these things is, they deliver benefits down the line. Regular dental checkups help you keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Taxes fund public works and services and are used for the good of a community and its citizens. Funds from taxes help repair infrastructure, keeping the roads and bridges you drive on safe so that—hopefully—you won't hit a pothole and get a flat tire.
Even though we know about these benefits, few of us love paying our taxes or getting our teeth cleaned.
Another task few of us enjoy is making a will.
One obvious benefit of writing a will is that your wishes are spelled out and will be carried out as you intend. In other words, you get to make the decisions.
But there's another benefit.
Without a will, your loved ones will have to figure out your intentions, which can be incredibly stressful at a time that's already emotionally difficult.
Your will is a gift you give those you leave behind. You go through the effort of making a will now so that your loved ones' lives will be somewhat easier in their time of grief.
It reminds me of a book by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. One of the rules is, "Clean up your own mess."1 That's what a will does. Estates can be messy, and a will is part of the process of cleaning it up so that others don't have to.
I'm Mark Riepe, and this is Financial Decoder, an original podcast from Charles Schwab. It's a show about financial decisions and the cognitive and emotional biases that can cloud our judgment.
According to a Gallup survey, only 46% of Americans have a will2—which means most of us don't.
And it's not restricted to regular folks. Some celebrities and famously wealthy people didn't have wills, either.
In 2016, singer-songwriter Prince died without a will, and over 700 people came out of the woodwork seeking a share in his $200 million estate.3 It wasn't pretty.
Billionaire Howard Hughes had no will when he died in 1976.4 By the time his $2 billion estate—which would be almost 10 billion in today's dollars5—was settled five years later, more than 600 people had made claims to his fortune.6
Other household names who died without a will include Abraham Lincoln—which was notable because he was a lawyer—Pablo Picasso, and several music icons, including Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.7
It may be hard to believe that people who had such valuable estates and access to legal professionals would not have wills. But it just goes to show that even the rich and famous might have fallen victim to that age-old foe of procrastination.
Procrastination isn't really a bias, but it's a close cousin to present bias, which causes us to avoid doing work now because the future benefits seem microscopic when compared to the immediate costs of doing the work today.
Estate planning requires us to do work now for something that hasn't happened yet. To make matters worse, it's something most of us don't like to think about. And while estate planning provides clear benefits, those benefits only accrue in the future. It's tailor-made for present bias and procrastination.
A common reason to procrastinate is because a task is unpleasant. As Fuschia Sirois, professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield in England 8 says, we put off tasks that are "difficult, unpleasant, aversive, or just plain boring or stressful." Estate planning checks several of those boxes.
Low self-esteem can also fuel procrastination. It happens when we're afraid we're not going to do the task correctly.7 Estate planning is important and it requires some expertise most of us don't have, so naturally there's a degree of trepidation that goes along with it.
What if you screw up your will and your awful second-cousin-twice-removed gets your prized possessions? While that's a risk, the bottom line is that you need to get your affairs in order now.
You benefit because you can specify how you want your wishes to be carried out, and your loved ones benefit because you aren't leaving a mess for them to clean up.
Finally, think back to all those times in the past where you had an unpleasant task to do that you kept fretting about and putting off. When you finally did it a huge weight was lifted off your shoulders. Do your future self a favor by getting rid of that burden today.
To help us figure exactly how to do that, I'm going to be talking with Nancy Murphy, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and Schwab senior financial planner in Indianapolis, who has a lot of experience helping people with estate planning.
Nancy Murphy, thanks for being here again.
NANCY MURPHY: Great to be with you again, Mark.
MARK: Why don't we just kind of begin at the beginning and start with the basics here. What is an estate plan? And second part of that question, who needs one?
NANCY: Well, it's a great question, Mark, and there's actually a brochure that Schwab provides to clients, and it's called "Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan." And a lot of times, we think about estate planning being something that's, you know, exclusively for wealthy people. But, actually, the plan that we all need, it allows us to make sure that the people we trust are in charge of us if we're incapacitated, and it makes sure that the assets that we have are distributed correctly to the right people.
MARK: So, if everyone needs one, maybe you can go into more detail about the components of a plan. Is the plan something like a container that contains a will? Maybe a trust? Medical documents? What's the purpose of some of these things? And maybe we'll just start out with the … that's a long list. Why don't we start out with the financial documents, and maybe we'll talk about the medical ones in a second.
NANCY: OK. Everyone really kind of jumps right to the wills or the trusts. You know, "When I pass away, I want to make sure I have these documents in place." But, really, where we start is with documents that affect you while you're still alive. So that includes the powers of attorney for your financial affairs, and then the durable powers of attorney for your health or medical issues. So those two documents, and sometimes they will add a third document, that used to be known as a living will, and other words or terms that are used are medical directives. And that allows you to specify certain treatments at the end of life or comfort measures at the end of life, you know, whether or not they should allow nutrition, or liquids, or medications that keep your blood pressure up, you know, those kinds of things. So those, actually, affect you while you're still alive. And then the final distribution of your assets are taken care of through either a will or a trust, or a combination of those two. Those are the basic documents that everyone should have in place once they reach a legal age, which in most states is around age 18.
MARK: And what about a medical power of attorney, where does that fit in? Is that just part of the package, part of the kit, if you will?
NANCY: Yeah, part of the package, and that's the one where you, again, give authority over your medical decisions if you're incapacitated or unable to act on your own. So that can happen in a number of ways, by the way. It's not just, you know, that I had a stroke and I'm sitting in a chair drooling. It could be that I had a concussion. Maybe I fell on the ice. We had a lot of ice here in Indy recently, so that's fresh in my mind. You could slip. You could fall. You could have a concussion. And as a result, you wouldn't be able to make financial decisions on your own, and you may not be able to make healthcare decisions on your own, because your brain just needs to … you know, to relax and to recover. So that document is where you assign authority to that person to make decisions around your healthcare. And that includes medications, surgeries. Where do we have our recovery taking place? Is that going to be in a facility? Is that going to be at home with a, you know, care provider? You know, all those different decisions are made on your behalf by someone that you appoint and that, hopefully, you trust with your life.
MARK: Whether we like it or not, a bunch of people, I suspect, equate estate plan with will. And I think from our standpoint, at least, estate plan is kind of a … you know, sort of a broader meaning to it. But let's go back to the will. What, exactly, is a will? What is it doing, and why is it important to have one?
NANCY: So a will is a legal document that allows you to determine who is going to be the executor of your estate. And the executor's job is to kind of gather up all the assets that are titled in your name and to have them evaluated, and then, also, to pay any taxes due, the final bills that are due, funeral expenses, you know, all of those kinds of things.
And then once those responsibilities are taken care of, they look to the will to determine how these assets are to be distributed. And so the will can determine who is to get what, and that can include financial assets. That can include sentimental assets, family assets. You know, that's where all of those are decisions are contained in that will. The will can also include your decision to take care of a family member, you know, to make sure that some provision is made for their ongoing care needs. And that could be a child. That could be a sibling. It also allows you to appoint a guardian if you have minor children. You want to have a will so that you can appoint a guardian to make sure that their care is provided for. So there's a variety of things that are held inside of that will. But it really is … the best way to understand it as a legal contract that you create with your attorney.
MARK: How do you distinguish, or what are the differences between a will and, let's say, a revocable living trust, which is one of the more popular form of trusts? We did an episode, I don't know, three or four episodes back on that topic. What's the difference between the two?
NANCY: Well, both a will and a trust are legal ways to distribute assets at your death. Any assets that you distribute through your will are going to be part of the probate process. So that's a process of evaluating the value of the assets and determining ownership, you know, who owns it now, who will own it in the future. And that evaluation process, that probate process, is going to include the value of the assets in the document once it's recorded down at the courthouse.
Now, a trust is a legal entity that you create, or that revocable trust is a legal entity that you create, kind of like a business. And the legal entity owns assets that are titled into the trust. So the revocable trust will own assets, you know, like a brokerage account or real estate property, things like that. And when that trustee, the grantor of the trust, passes away, it doesn't change the ownership of that asset, so the trust continues to own that asset. And within the document of the trust are directions on what are to be done with the assets in the trust. And so the trustee is given the direction to make those distributions, or to reserve those assets, or to, you know, provide for the care of a family member, or something like that. You'll notice one thing that's missing is there is no probate process that a trust asset will go through, because there is no change in the title from when the person, grantor, establishes the trust and when the trust assets are distributed. So that's a primary difference between a will versus a trust. And a lot of times, people will be looking for a more private transfer of assets at the end of their lives, and that's where, a lot of times, those revocable trusts come into play.
MARK: Clearly, as you just described, there's some definite differences between the trust and the will. But at the same time, there's also some overlap. So do you really need both?
NANCY: Yes, you usually have a will, even though you do have a revocable trust. The will, in that case, is what we call a pour-over will. And so it, basically, will say, you know, "If during my lifetime I purchased or established an account that failed to be included into the trust, it's my intention to have that asset put into the trust." And so, it's like a … you know, kind of "clean-up on aisle four." I'm trying to gather up anything I might have missed and put it into the trust at the end of my life. So that will can still, you know, function in conjunction with a trust. And then, also, the trust … or, sorry, the will is also the place, again, where you would name a guardian of your minor children. You know, so there are still reasons why you would have a will.
And the other thing, Mark, is that, remember I said that the executor is responsible for paying the final bills, paying the funeral costs, and also, you know, making sure the final tax return is filed, all of those things. And so the will allows that person to follow through on those responsibilities. So, generally speaking, you're not going to have absolutely everything titled into the trust. You're probably going to have a checking or a savings account, and that will allow that executor to fulfill their obligations through that will.
MARK: So let's talk a little bit about beneficiaries then, because every financial account … maybe not every, but practically every financial account that somebody listening might open, they're going to be given the opportunity to name a beneficiary. You work with individual investors all the time. What kind of mistakes do you see people making with respect to selecting those beneficiaries?
NANCY: Well, the first one is a big one—they fail to name a beneficiary. And so, you know, when we think about accounts that … you know, automatically, what comes to mind are, you know, an IRA, a Roth IRA, annuities, life insurance, all of those have the ability to be transferred by beneficiary designation. And even brokerage accounts, in most of the states, you can also add beneficiaries onto those accounts, as well. And the advantage there is that makes sure that those assets go to whomever the beneficiary is. That's what we call an outright distribution. It's basically as though I handed a check over to you at the end of my life and said, "Here, Mark. Here you go. Do what you want." But the beneficiary designation is so important, and a lot of times, we just kind of overlook it.
And a lot of times, if we name our spouse, for instance, as the beneficiary of our IRA, what we also want to think about is, you know, there's another opportunity to name a contingent beneficiary, and that's probably the second, you know, most overlooked opportunity, is that you have the ability to name, you know, kind of a contingent beneficiary, "Who would get this money, or who do I want to get this money, if my spouse predeceases me, and I don't have time or the ability to get into the account and make changes in the beneficiary designation before my time on earth is over?" You know, so that contingent beneficiary, again, is allowing me to kind of mimic the way I would want assets in my will distributed. I would name my spouse first, and in my case, I would name my children as contingent beneficiaries. Sometimes clients will have a spouse. Maybe they don't have children. Maybe a lot of their estate is going to go a charity or a donor-advised fund, for example. In that case, you could name the donor-advised fund as a contingent beneficiary, or you could name, you know, a charity directly as a contingent beneficiary.
The, kind of the third thing, I would say, that often gets overlooked is a lot of times, people fail to review their beneficiary designations, and they may have somebody named on there that they really don't intend to benefit. So, you know, the horror stories … and I actually had one in my career. I had a client, who her husband remarried, but forgot to do a beneficiary review, and so his group life insurance at work paid out to her instead of the new wife, which probably made for, you know, kind of an interesting Thanksgiving conversation, I'm sure. But that's just a great example of saying, you know, whoever is named as the beneficiary, that's a legal contract, and even though your will may say something different, whoever you have named as the beneficiary is the person or the entity that that money will be paid to.
MARK: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that, because once these are typed in, once these beneficiaries are named, as your life changes, it's not like there's some magic wand where you just wave it, and everything automatically gets updated. You've got to go out and kind of do it yourself at the end of the day. I mean, is that what it comes down to?
NANCY: Yeah, and I will say the place where that falls apart most frequently is that misinterpretation of the authority of the beneficiary designation and the authority of the will. A lot of times parents will, for example, name their children, their minor children, as beneficiaries of an account, or beneficiaries of an IRA, or a life insurance, and they will … you know, when I point out that that may not be correct, they will, you know, wave that aside and say, "Oh no, no, no, I've got a will in place, and the will, you know, names the trust, and everything is going to be managed for the kids. They're not going to get their hands on this money." Unfortunately, that's not correct. You know, so if I name my minor child as a beneficiary of my IRA, for example, or a beneficiary of my life insurance, the money will be held in a custodial account for them until they reach the age of majority, and the age of majority in most states is 18. At age 18, all of that money is available for whatever they want to do. So that's another big misunderstanding. The beneficiary designation is a legal contract. The will is a legal contract, and it cannot reach through to the beneficiary and say, "Oh no, no, the parents meant this."
MARK: Nancy, people start thinking about estate plans when they're getting older. And one of the consequences of getting older is health considerations. In fact, the last time you were on the show was an episode about sort of the vulnerabilities of senior investors. What do people have to have in place in terms of the documents we've just been talking about to deal with situations where, you know, maybe they're not able to make decisions for themselves, or maybe they shouldn't be making decisions for them, for themselves?
NANCY: Yeah. Well, we go back to those durable power of health and medical directives. So the durable power of health, again, is the document that you assign responsibility for making healthcare decisions to that person. You know, a lot of times we will name our spouse as our primary, and where we want to make sure that we've got a contingency plan is making sure that there's a … you know, again, somebody second in command that could step in if your spouse is also in a similar health situation and not able to… you know, to take care of those decisions themselves. I think the last time we talked, the other thing that bubbled up to the surface was, by the way, it maybe should be somebody that you don't see all the time because they also might be going through the pandemic and, you know, ill at the same time. So it's important, I think, to kind of get that kind of a sequence: If this, then that. You know, if this person isn't able to serve, then this person should step in and serve.
MARK: We started off this episode talking about procrastination and, you know, the tendency we all have to kind of put off things into the future that we don't want to deal with today. And I think a lot of these discussions we've just been talking about, estate planning, in general, certainly falls into that camp for a lot of people. So how do you, as someone who is working with individual investors all day long, how do you broach this subject? How do you get them thinking about a topic that, in many cases, they don't want to think about?
NANCY: So a lot of times when I'm preparing for a meeting, I will do kind of a beneficiary review. I will look at how have they titled these accounts, and in our discussions together I'll make sure that we talk about that. We talk about what would happen if something happens to you. So we can name a power of attorney here at Schwab, and I want to make sure that they understand that that's not as effective and not as long-term as the document that they put together with their attorney. So, you know, just in kind of walking through what would happen if something happened to you also allows us to start talking about, you know, "When was the last time you reviewed or updated your estate documents with your attorney?" And so that's where a lot of times, I will get kind of the sheepish, "Well, I don't really have an estate plan," or "it's been 20 years," or, you know, something like that. And so then the next thing we talk about is the things we've been talking about here today, is the importance of having those documents in place just to protect yourself.
You know, for instance, within the power of attorney, there is, generally speaking, a provision for that person to be able to handle your online presence. So that can be anything from logging into your laptop, you know, logging into your accounts, making sure your emails are responded to, making sure that bills are paid, accounts are, you know, reviewed online, those kinds … all the things that we do. That can include social media. These days, more and more we have to think about clients that own cryptocurrency, maybe NFTs, you know, all of those kinds of ways that we've expanded our financial lives here. So those online accounts and access to those accounts are also part of that power of attorney. So that's relatively new. That's probably within the last five years that that has become an important provision within those documents. And a lot of institutions, financial institutions, will want to see those documents updated probably every five years.
So whether or not your personal distribution chain, if you will, has changed in the last 20 years, there are a lot of laws that have changed in the last 20 years. So, for instance, we recently … in 2019, we had the passing of the SECURE Act. That affects the distribution—the length of time for the distribution—of IRA assets. We also, I think it was in, I want to say, 2006, we had the HIPAA regulations passed, and that controls medical privacy. And so it could be that if your documents are that far out date, your agent, your representative, may not be able to have a very lively conversation with medical professionals if the HIPAA regulation prevents them from revealing any private information.
MARK: We've been talking about this estate-planning process almost exclusively from the perspective of the estate owner. What about the people who may be on the receiving end of that estate? At what point … while the owner is still alive, at what point does it make sense to bring in the heirs into the process and start talking about some of these issues?
NANCY: Well, I think, you know, if you're naming your children, for example, as your power of attorney or, you know, even a backup power of attorney, or durable power of health, you'll want to let them know that you are asking them to serve in that role. You'll want to provide those documents to them, you know, because the worst thing is, the mom and dad are down at the hospital, and you're scrambling around trying to find, you know, where are the documents. So that's an important conversation to have.
I think the other important conversation is to let them know that you are going to be providing a legacy to them and to, you know, kind of help them understand also what are their options going to be. If they are going to be receiving an IRA, you know, you could get into a discussion about what you hope that they would do with that IRA, how they would handle that. You know, there's a wide range of things.
Sometimes … I actually had a client several years ago who made a decision in her life to take a different career path than her heart really wanted her to take. You know, she wanted to be a teacher. She went into accounting, and she did that because she wanted to have financial security. In her late 50s, her husband passed away, and very soon after, her father passed away. And at the time that I spoke with her, she had just inherited $6 million, and she was devastated because she said, "Had I known that that was in my future, potentially, I might have made different choices in my life, and I might, you know, feel differently about that inheritance now. Now it feels almost like a burden."
So I think that those conversations are valuable in you being able to convey what your hopes are for them, what you hope to provide as a, you know, part of your legacy. So I always think conversation is better. Although I would say that if someone passed away and left me a million dollars, I would not be too upset. But having said that, I think it's important to … you know, to start those conversations. You don't have to be specific about it, but you can at least let them know that there will be something and to anticipate that.
MARK: It's a burden while you're getting through the paperwork …
MARK: … but after that, you know, you get over that pretty quickly.
You know, one of the interesting things that the pandemic … not interesting … one of the tragic things that the pandemic has done is it's really shortened the progress that we were making as a society on expanding life expectancy. But let's assume for the moment that at some point we get through this pandemic, and that that march toward, you know, longer lives, that that continues. What trends are you seeing in terms of … I guess it's kind of a new field, longevity planning, that are causing people to maybe do things a little bit differently, given how long people potentially are spending in that, you know, post-primary-career phase of their life?
NANCY: Yeah, I think it's a great question, in that a lot of times in the past, people would retire at age 65, and maybe they would live to age 80. And now we have people retiring in their early 60s or even in their 50s, and we're using 92 and 94 for, you know, projecting their life expectancy. And a lot of times I will point that out to a client, you know, in terms of legacy, because they will often say that they hope to leave something to their family at the end of their lives. So in the past, that leaving something has meant, you know, leaving a family farm, or leaving a house, or leaving, you know, a piece of real estate. And a lot of times that real estate was passed on to the person who moved in and took care of that elderly person. These days our estates are much different. They're, you know, more liquid assets, more accounts like IRAs and brokerage accounts.
And so when we think about the power of accumulation over 30-plus years in retirement, that can mean that we're leaving really significant assets. So you want to think about, "Well, how old … if I live to age 90, how old will my children be by the time I pass that money on?" And likely is they'll be in their 60s, right? And maybe you would be able to help out your grandchildren, but they may be, you know, again, fairly advanced in their careers by that time.
So a couple things that we see happening because of longevity. One is that people stay more fully invested in the market than they may have when we looked at retirements lasting 15 or 20 years. You know, so we want to make sure that we can tap into the growth of the market or the potential growth of the market to help us counter things like inflation, particularly healthcare inflation, expenses at the end of life, those kinds of things. So we see people probably staying a lot more, you know, having a lot larger stock exposure for a lot longer time. That old rule of thumb where we, you know, kind of say, well, you know, you put your age as the driver of how much money should be invested in bonds, that doesn't hold any longer.
And the other thing that, you know, kind of goes back to what I was saying was about legacy is we see more people thinking about legacy as something that happens during their lifetime, not just at the end of their lifetime. So we see a lot more interest around gifting, around family vacations, or family events, things that really are meaningful to everyone, so that the grandparents, or whoever it is that is going to be gifting, has a chance to see and evaluate how well that gift is handled.
MARK: Final question, Nancy, then I'll let you go. You talked earlier about some of the techniques you've used to get people willing to engage in this topic of estate planning. How do you keep them following through all the way, right? It's one thing to have the conversation, but at the end of the day, certain accounts have to be opened, certain documents have to be drafted, they've got to be signed. You have to complete the process to really get the full benefit of that. So how do you keep people on track, if you will, and, you know, going all the way through the finish line?
NANCY: Yeah, it's a big challenge. A lot of times it is, you know, sometimes motivated by personal experience, right? So if you're the executor of your parents' estate, that's usually motivating for you to get your own estate documents in place, so that your heirs don't have to go through what you had to go through, right? That's kind of a motivation. And sometimes it's something that happens in your community or your family, you know, some tragedy that really kind of triggers that same action. But those kinds of emotional reactions, you know, that energy behind that doesn't last a long time and often doesn't last long enough to actually go to the final stages where you have the, you know, documents signed and notarized and in people's hands.
What we do at Schwab, when clients go through financial plans with us, we create an action plan for them. And if an estate update or establishing estate documents, if that's one of the recommendations, their financial consultant or their portfolio consultant, whoever their team is, is aware that that's the recommendation. So we have kind of two ways. I always say that I've put my financial consultants and portfolio consultants on what I like to fondly call as my "nag team." So they are going to follow up with the client in conversations in the future. And then, also, with this action plan, there's going to be an email that will be sent out to remind clients to say, "You know, this was something you discussed, and this is on your action plan. You know, just a reminder that you're supposed to do such and so." So we are trying to kind of get some of those reminders. But, ultimately, the individual has to take action. They're the ones that have to follow through.
And so I think that the important thing to remember is if you don't think of anything else from today's discussion, remember that this estate plan gives you an opportunity to protect yourself. It allows you to select who you trust to carry out, you know, decisions about you while you're still alive that may allow you to recover and get back on your feet and enjoy the rest of your life. So you want to make sure that you are the one who makes that decision, and you don't really want to make, you know, your family run down to the courthouse to try to get appointed by the judge as your guardian, when what you really want is for them to be with you and help you in that time where you need the most help. So I think, you know, trying to be selfish about it, get those documents in place and protect yourself.
MARK: Reminding people that they need to do it, reminding them why they need to do it, and reminding them of the consequences if they don't do it. I think all that makes a lot of sense.
Nancy Murphy is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and accredited estate planner here at Schwab. Nancy, thanks for being with us today.
NANCY: Thanks for inviting me, Mark. It was great to be with you.
MARK: Nancy had some great tips on how to create an estate plan and put it into action.
Here are four other tips on how to get going and keep going until you're finished.
The first is to start small.8
That could mean making an appointment with your financial planner or finding a lawyer if you don't have one. Then harness that momentum and use their expertise to set up a step-by-step plan to get to the finish line.
Tip #2 is to reward yourself. After you complete a step, allow yourself to do something you enjoy.8 This is related to temptation bundling, which we talked about in our Season 8 bonus episode with Dr. Katy Milkman, who hosts Schwab's Choiceology podcast.
Temptation bundling is when you pair an unpleasant but important task with a pleasant task that provides an immediate reward. For example, go ahead and watch your favorite TV show, but only while walking on a treadmill.
Applying this to estate planning, you might, for instance, draw up a list of five movies you want to see between now and the end of the year. Pair each movie with an estate-planning task and only watch that movie after you've completed its companion task.
Tip #3 is to look backward. When you're celebrating having completed a task, look backward at how far you've come. Some people find that looking back in this way and seeing the progress that's occurred gives them a boost of energy to keep going.
Finally, tip #4 is to keep the goal in mind. Like I said at the top of this episode, having a will and estate plan is like a gift you give to your loved ones.
Even if you're not great at gift-giving, having a well-thought-out estate plan is a present everyone will appreciate.
You can learn more about trusts and getting started with an estate plan at Schwab.com/EstatePlanning.
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For important disclosures, see the show notes and Schwab.com/FinancialDecoder.
1 Fulghum, Richard, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. (New York: Villard Books, 1990), p. 6.
2 Jones, Jeffrey M., "How Many Americans Have a Will?," gallup.com, June 23, 2021
4 "Howard Hughes Dies at 70 on Flight to Texas Hospital," nytimes.com, April 6, 1976
6 Seelye, Katherine Q., "Melvin Dummar, Who Claimed Howard Hughes Left Him Millions, Dies," nytimes.com, December 12, 2018
7 Phillips Erb, Kelly, "17 Famous People Who Died Without a Will," forbes.com, April 27, 2016
8 Haupt, Angela, "Why Do We Procrastinate, and How Can We Stop? Experts Have Answers," washingtonpost.com, July 29, 2021
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- Learn more about estate planning, including our four-step checklist and tips on taxes.
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Creating a will has several benefits. A will can help your loved ones carry out your wishes, it can protect your assets, and it can allow you to designate a guardian of your children. Inevitably, some people never get around to making a will, even though they intend to do it. This type of procrastination can be difficult to overcome. Procrastination isn't a bias per se, but it's a close cousin to present bias, which causes us to avoid doing work now because the future benefits seem microscopic when compared to the immediate costs of doing the work today.
In this episode, Mark talks with Nancy Murphy, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and Schwab senior financial planner in Indianapolis who was previously a guest on the episode about senior and vulnerable investors. Mark and Nancy help demystify the process of making a will by explaining all the components, and they discuss the various legal documents that can make up an estate plan. They also discuss the benefits of having a trust and some common mistakes people make when it comes to naming beneficiaries.
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