One wouldn’t expect the legal industry to really have seasons. Not like retail – think Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Back to School, just to name a few. Summer is a big season for many industries; road building and repair, home remodeling, vacation and recreation. Fishing season, hunting season; these are well defined seasons that start and stop to the minute. The legal industry can’t match these, but there are a few seasons. Tax season, for example. Those of us that do tax work see a bump up around April 15 (hint – an attorney can usually be of more help in tax planning, rather than last minute compliance issues). I’m sure my colleagues doing criminal defense work see a bump during the summer when crime also increases.
You might be surprised to learn we estate planners have a season. No real weather driven season, and estate planners don’t run specials. So why is there an estate planning season? I’ll give you a hint – it starts in mid-January and continues until about the end of February. It appears to be tied to the holidays. My theory: we spend time with our extended families over the holidays, and that experience reminds us we need to get this task completed.
Perhaps this was the first year that Mom or Grandma didn’t prepare the turkey, or have the major holiday gathering at her house; the guard has changed, the torch has passed. Maybe you don’t have children of your own, got a good look at your nieces and nephews, and can’t stand the thought they would get everything for which you worked so hard. Perhaps siblings, or siblings-in-law, brought up the nightmare situation they went through in their families. Perhaps someone was eying Grandma’s china as if Grandma had already passed away and the personal possessions were going first come, first served. Or maybe “Cousin Eddie” from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation showed up and stayed a bit too long.
There’s something about spending that much time with our families that just naturally turns our thoughts to death.
Hopefully, you’ve figured out that you can’t change your family. You’re stuck with them. If you’re worried about your parents’ or grandparents’ estate plan, by all means make them an appointment. But you can’t force them to get it done (if you could, the attorney may have some concerns about whether they are actually competent enough to make the estate plan).
Completing your own estate plan is a positive response to what may have been a stressful experience. So, pick up the phone and make an appointment. You may be able to get your first appointment before Christmas, finalize and execute your estate plan shortly after the first of the year, and sail forth in the new year, secure in the knowledge that you have this, at least, handled.
I’ll be posting tips between now and the end of the year to help you prepare for your first meeting.
Remember, they’re your family, and it’s only a few days a year.