Recent news has shifted from remembrances of Aretha Franklin and all she gave to the music world to discussions of the fact that it appears she did not have an updated and comprehensive estate plan in place to guide the management and distribution of her assets. We have seen this story before – Prince, Heath Ledger, and so many others. When we learn of a celebrity passing away without the right estate plan – or any estate plan – in place, people will examine why they didn’t pay attention to this important aspect of their life.

This is one area in which, as the tabloids say, celebrities really are just like us. Well over half of Americans do not have an estate plan in place – and many more probably have one that has not been reviewed or updated in years. So, what is holding us back?

People aren’t sure what an estate plan is.

Many people understand that they need an estate plan – but have no idea what one is. Part of the reason is that there is no “one size fits all” answer, and each person’s estate plan may consist of different documents with different provisions.

People aren’t sure how to find and hire an estate planning attorney.

The thought of finding someone who you will tell all of your family secrets, worst fears, and deepest hopes can be overwhelming. If you want to start the estate planning process but aren’t sure how to find an estate planning attorney, start asking around. You can ask your friends and family who they have used and what their experience was like. Your financial advisor, accountant or insurance agent might have suggestions as well. You can and should always review a potential attorney’s website and LinkedIn page for more insights into their experience and approach.

People are concerned about the cost.

There is no getting around the fact that estate planning is going to be an expense. There is a wide range of appropriate fees depending upon the location, level of experience and service, type of practice and many other factors. Educate yourself so that you can ask the right questions and prevent any surprises. Open a candid conversation with your estate planner about the costs of your plan now and in the future – often, having no plan or a plan that does not adequately address your needs will cost less now, but cost far more in money, time and frustration in the future.

People don’t have all the answers.

People often say that they haven’t undertaken estate planning because they didn’t have the answers to the questions they knew they would be asked. For example, one of the most common obstacles people cite to completing their estate plan is not knowing who to name as the guardian for minor children. Remember that your estate planning attorney has years of experience working with people to answer the questions you are now facing. Bring your concerns and your questions to her or him.

If you are interested in talking further about your estate plan, please contact any of the attorneys in Pabian & Russell, LLC’s Estate Planning practice group at 617-951-3100.