The "Procrastination Factor"

By John R. Ingrisano, CLU
(Copyright 2016)

Many people would just as soon change the topic when "death and dying" come up.  Admittedly, the subject does not make lively party conversation.  Still, planning for an orderly estate transfer -- whether you are talking to a client who is 25 or 75 years of age -- is a responsibility too important to ignore. 

 If the topic stops your clients cold, they are not alone.  By estimates by LexisNexis, approximately 55% of all adults do not have wills.  One explanation is that they are uncomfortable with the idea of their own demise.  However, there's more to it than that. 

 Let's call it the "Procrastination Factor."  Most people don't mean to procrastinate.  They simply aren't aware.  They don't see the urgency.  Among the reasons they procrastinate include: 

·        General avoidance.  Many people would just as soon avoid thinking about unpleasant change in their lives.    

·        The process can emotionally challenging.  Creating a will, for example, can be very stressful.  It can bring up questions and issues of unresolved family conflicts, of loyalty, of deciding who gets what and who should be left out entirely. 

·        Other family members can discourage planning.  Even when a person comes to terms with these issues, it may be upsetting to other family members.  Many of us dismiss the effort with such comments as, "Oh Grandma, let's not discuss it.  You're going to outlive all of us."

·        The process can be complicated and unpleasant.  Estate planning requires decisions we would just as soon not address.  Plus, there can be many confusing details, especially with larger estates.  Many people feel a loss of control as they surrender themselves to experts who tell them what they need to do.

·        Fear of death.  For some people, acknowledging their own mortality is tantamount to inviting death in the door.  They reason that as long as they don't think about it, it won't happen.

 Our role: Regardless of the reasons clients may to procrastinate, it is our responsibility to encourage our them to do their estate planning.  Horror stories abound about the outcome of failing to plan.  It happens all too often that assets end up unnecessarily being paid in estate taxes, leaving widows and children with major lifestyle losses.  Or, because there is no will, the state determines who gets what, without regard for anyone's wishes.  This can cause conflict among families.

 What should you do?  The most important thing is to help clients overcome feelings of avoidance, no matter what their source.  Specifically, encourage clients to do the following:

·        Complete or update their wills. 

·        Make sure they have enough life insurance. 

·        Help them review all beneficiary designations for current life insurance, 401(k)s, and other qualified plans. 

·        Most of all, help them become comfortable discussing the topic.  It is common to want to procrastinate.  However, estate planning is one of those things they need to do because they have a spouse, children or other loved ones.  That is the primary reason NOT to procrastinate. 


The bottom line:  Your clients depend on you for good advice.  Make sure you do not avoid the topics they need to address.  It is your job and your responsibility as a professional.

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John Ingrisano is a former insurance agent, business journalist, sales trainer and “marketeer” who has developed sales programs, newsletters and marketing campaigns for dozens of major insurance and financial services companies over the last 35 years.  He is also a public speaker and author of several books, including “The Back to Basics Book of Selling:  A Guide to a Successful Sales Career” and “The Back to Basics Book of Money: A Couple’s Guide to Financial Peace.”   John can be contacted by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

Copyright © 2016 John R. Ingrisano