The Consequences of Neglecting Your Estate Plan

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Even though most Americans know that having a will is an important part of estate planning, there is still some evidence of resistance. A recent survey by Caring.com found that only 56% of American parents have a will or living trust document. In addition, 52% of adult children do not know where their parents keep their estate documents, and 58% are unsure of the contents of those documents. A lack of preparation in this case can cause a world of trouble and result in financial and emotional strain at a time when one must be able to think clearly in order to get family affairs in order.

No one knows the importance of having estate planning documents in order better than Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com. He and his sister experienced their own crisis involving their parents.

“Before starting Caring.com I was working at Intuit, running their website Quicken.com, and my parents got sick and both passed away. During that time I realized how hard it was to be a caregiver and how there weren’t any good resources out there to help family caregivers know what to do. So I started Caring.com to try to make it easier for other people who are caring for aging parents. One of the challenges me and my sister had was finding all of our parents’ legal documents. We didn’t have copies of them and we weren’t sure how they worked, so it was very difficult for us,” says Cohen.

The Cheat Sheet spoke with Cohen for more insight into why so many consumers are unprepared when it comes to estate planning.


The Cheat Sheet: Why aren’t more people drafting a will or establishing a living trust?

Andy Cohen: I don’t think anyone wants to face the prospect of the end of life. Whether it’s your own death or someone else’s death, no one wants to think about it, so it’s something that people tend to put off. I live in California, and people tend to do the same thing when it comes to earthquakes. No one wants to prepare for an earthquake because it’s an unpleasant thing. Death is a more unpleasant thing than an earthquake, but it’s just human nature. Unfortunately, if you pass away or your parents pass away, [neglecting the issue] can leave a real mess behind.