The statistics are shocking. In a survey of 1,000 adult children, only 55 percent said their parents had a will or trust document. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of them didn’t know where these documents are kept. And further still, 44 percent have no idea what is in the documents. So what do all these statistics mean? They mean that people undervalue the importance of estate planning.

When elderly parents age and pass away without these critical legal documents, it places a huge burden on the family left behind. This Chicago Tribune article describes ways to plan in advance for the future. Otherwise, you may find yourself filing for Guardianship and Conservatorship of your parents in order to take care of them while they are alive. Or their money may end up being tied up in court after they pass. Both can be costly. However, the good news is that it is highly avoidable by planning in advance.

Among these documents, powers of attorneys, health care directives, wills, and trust documents are the most common. Executing these documents can be a daunting, overwhelming and confusing process. Hiring a reputable attorney is the first step.

There are some things to remember when considering estate planning. Don’t create these documents and then forget about them. A good rule of thumb is to update them every five years. When a major life event occurs is also a good time to update. Make sure you are appointing someone who will advocate for you as you want. A Licensed Fiduciary like Arizona Elder Care can be your agent if your family dynamics are complex or you are alone.

Once you have your documents in order, share them. Simply having them written out is not enough. Both your family and trusted professionals need to know what is in them and where you keep them. Make sure they are in a secure place.

As you can see, the importance of estate planning outweighs the work it may entail. Get your estate in order before the situation becomes urgent! It will save you and your loved ones unnecessary burdens.