(Dow Jones) A lot of people would rather face anything but their own mortality. So many don't, leaving their estate plans unmade or out of date.

Attorneys and other advisors who draft wills, trusts and other estate documents say that, complicated as it can be to create a good plan, the far bigger challenge is to help clients overcome inertia to get moving in the first place.

Beth Shapiro Kaufman, a partner in the private client group at law firm Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, once drafted a new version of a 20-year-old will for a client, but instead of meeting with the lawyer right away to sign it, the woman went on a trip. She died on one of the planes downed by terrorists on September 11, 2001.

Afterwards, estate planners were able to see that the woman's estate went to the people in the draft will, but it required a complicated series of steps that could have been avoided if it had been signed before she died.

People have a "limited amount of time and patience to focus on their own death," said Donald R. Weigandt, a wealth advisor in the Los Angeles office of J.P. Morgan Private Bank. "It's not a subject people look forward to."

Thomas D. Davidow, a family business consultant who worked with families in private practice as a psychologist for years, said many attorneys complain to him that once they create elaborate, well-thought-out plans, clients simply don't sign them. His advice is that there "is probably something going on that they haven't told you, and that you have to ask more questions about what people really want and what they fear."

Hardest for many people is naming a guardian to take care of children in the event of death. Weigandt himself struggled along with his wife in choosing a guardian for their own children, he says.

Only 60% of Americans over 50 years old have a will, 23% have a living trust and 45% have a durable power of attorney, according to a 2000 survey by the AARP, still considered a standard.

Travel-especially without kids or a spouse-is one of the most common cures for procrastination. A kind of estate-planning "fire drill" often occurs right before a person or family leaves to take a trip; the person may call the advisor a day, or even just hours, before leaving, asking for documents to be changed.

Nearly every year, a few weeks or days before he leaves on a trip to Europe, a client of Kaufman's calls her about his will. She makes changes, if necessary, sometimes getting him into the office "literally on his way to the airport," she says.

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