Based on 15 years experience in estate planning and a taking several courses on the differences between men and women, I’m convinced that Men are mechanically wired to assume that they are not going to die. This makes it hard to talk about estate planning, but makes them very good protectors when needed. This quality means they’re less afraid to join the armed forces or to go into battle because they REALLY don’t think THEIR death will be the outcome.
Most women in contrast seem to be very concerned about planning for both birth and death, particularly if it affects their childrens’ wellbeing in the event that “something should happen to them.” For many women, it feels like a natural part of life, not something to be feared or avoided.
That difference doesn’t make it easy for mothers to try to get their male partners to cooperate with the estate planning process because most men assume it’s all about death – and that’s a subject that goes against their very biology to even talk about. So, don’t make them feel bad about it – it’s just their wiring which serves us all very well in times of conflict. Of course not EVERY man or woman is a certain way, we’re all born unique, but I’ve seen a pattern here that may be of assistance to women who find themselves wanting to begin the estate planning process, but with no buy in from their mate.
Therefore, I write to offer some tips in how to enroll your MAN in the estate planning process, because if you don’t, it is unlikely to ever happen until a crisis occurs, and then it may be too late.
- Make him your hero instead of the problem. Be sensitive to the fact that some men are embarrassed about their lack planning because the culture suggests that they “should” do estate planning. If you explain that it’s perfectly natural for him to avoid such conversations due to male mechanics, he will feel less judgmental about his lack of planning and more at ease about the subject. If you honor him for his protective wiring and thank him for his service as a protector, then he will suddenly be compelled to listen to every word you have to say. Now you can request that he OVERCOME his biology to make a leap that takes courage but will be a victory for him. Such a leap would make him your “hero.” Notice I’m speaking in his language, language of a protector.
- Reframe the conversation so it is not about death. Talk about estate planning in the context of providing security and financial stability to the family during times of incapacity (you are both alive, but one of you is unable to sign his/her name for some reason). How will you sign the tax return or talk to the VISA card if you’re not the primary?
- Make it about providing for YOU. Most men love to provide for their families. Talk about how his hands will be tied if something happened to YOU if no documents are in place giving him authority to make medical or financial decisions for you. No man wants a judge to tell him what to do to take care of his own wife for the rest of her life! Why would your husband not want to OPT OUT of the court system and keep your care in the private control of his oversight? Remind him that he has the ability to save you and the kids thousands of dollars by avoiding the probate court process that supervises most of our lives when we don’t have an estate plan in place. A probate for an average house in Alameda County would cost about $44,000.
- Other Incentives. Of course, there’s the old standby – trade him something he values that would make estate planning worthy of his time and money. Maybe you could trade one weekend of estate planning for one weekend romantic getaway to his favorite bed and breakfast? If you own a business, much of the trip could be a write off because it is “business succession planning.” Maybe he wants tickets to a special sporting event or a backpacking trip with the “boys”. Whatever he enjoys most may be the trade you seek.
- Have an enrolling Conversation. You will need to enroll him in a plan to move forward to creating your estate plan. If you do most of the footwork, it’s a big help as long as he feels included. Create a meeting just to discuss this issue, so he can focus and not be in the middle of driving, watching TV or working on something else. Let him know how much it means to you to have the peace of mind that estate planning promises. Let him know how “happy” it would make you to talk about. Our MEN want nothing more than to make us happy. When he says yes to scheduling the conversation with you, jump up and down excitedly and give him a kiss so he can see how happy just setting a time made you feel – and how much it means to you. Maybe you meet at his favorite coffee shop or make it a date to encourage his participation.
Remember, you will have to take the lead on this project. You will have to build momentum and keep moving forward and keep enrolling him until your documents are complete. Don’t make him “wrong” for this. You were wired for this work, not him. If you have tried everything and nothing seems to be working, the only other approach is to create your own separate estate plan and influence him by example.