As Walt Disney once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” If only everyone applied that philosophy to estate planning.

I recently came across an editorial out of Pittsburgh, weighing the benefits of proactive estate planning vs. reactive estate planning.

Proactive estate planning is what it sounds like — making plans before you need them. The proactive crowd is keen on foresight. They know they’ll need estate plans someday, so they get all their ducks in a row now, while everything is going well. No one’s sick, no one’s in the hospital, no one’s in the last chapters of their lives — but should disability, illness, injury, or unexpected death rear its ugly head tomorrow, they’ll be prepared.

The reactive camp isn’t so big on preparation. Oh, sure, they end up with estate plans eventually — but only when they’re running a race with deadlines and hoping they stay a little ahead of “too late.” Reactive types don’t give estate planning a second thought until someone’s health has taken a turn for the worst, or maybe when someone dies without warning. To quote the article, these are people “in crisis.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorialists sum it up like this: “While there are almost always options available at the eleventh hour (often limited because of timing), obviously advance planning will save time, money and stress.”

Advance planning also leads to better decision-making. Crisis situations limit options and tie hands. Rash choices are made. But when you come into my office and sit down for a conversation during “a time of peace,” if you will, cooler heads can prevail. We can take a long look into the far-off future and account for every contingency so that you aren’t terribly blindsided someday.

No one has ever regretted being proactive in their estate planning. The reactive folks, though? They know a thing or two about hindsight.

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