The Unintended Consequences of Expressing Love: A Lesson from the Grand Canyon

November 16, 2023

In our earnest efforts to express our love and commitment, we often take actions that we believe embody our deepest emotions and intentions – picture someone carving their initials and those of their sweetheart into the trunk of a tree. Sometimes these actions can lead to unintended, and even harmful, consequences. A striking example of this can be seen at the Grand Canyon, where visitors have adopted the global trend of placing “love locks” as a symbol of their affection. While the sentiment behind this act is undoubtedly heartfelt, it poses severe risks to the local wildlife, drawing parallels to common misconceptions in estate planning, particularly when it comes to creating a Will.

The Love Lock Phenomenon and its Unintended Consequences

"Love locks," padlocks placed by couples on structures like bridges and fences to symbolize their everlasting love, have become a global phenomenon. The Grand Canyon has not been spared, and recently, officials took to social media to address the issue. Their message was clear: "Love is strong, but it is not as strong as our bolt cutters." The practice, though romantic, results in littering and a form of graffiti, and has severe consequences for the California condor, one of America’s most endangered birds.

These magnificent creatures, attracted to shiny objects, have been known to consume items like coins, foil, and keys – the item which the placers of many love locks will throw onto the landscape after they have attached the lock. The consumption of such items can lead to severe health issues, surgeries, and even death. With a population that hit a low of 22 birds in 1987, every single condor is precious, and while their numbers have increased, the love lock trend poses a new and unnecessary risk to their survival.

Drawing Parallels with Estate Planning

This situation at the Grand Canyon draws striking parallels with a common issue in estate planning. Many individuals create a Will with the intention of providing for their loved ones after their death. It is a heartfelt gesture and intended to express their care for their loved ones. However, the makers of Wills are often unaware that this action can lead to a long, expensive, and public court process, potentially putting their family through unnecessary stress and turmoil.

Just as visitors to the Grand Canyon may place a love lock with the best of intentions, not realizing the harm it can cause to the local wildlife, individuals may create a Will believing it is the best way to care for their loved ones, unaware of the potential legal complications and burdens they are inadvertently creating.

The Need for Awareness and Responsible Action

In both scenarios, education and awareness are key. Just as Grand Canyon officials are urging visitors to cease the love lock practice to protect the wildlife, estate planning professionals must inform and educate their clients on the potential pitfalls of relying on a Will for their estate plan, and explain the alternative options available that can provide for their loved ones without the unintended negative consequences caused by using a Will.

In our desire to express our love and commitment, whether to a partner at a breathtaking natural wonder or to our loved ones through our final gifts to them, it is crucial to be fully informed and aware of the potential unintended consequences of our actions. By choosing responsible and informed ways to express our love and commitment, we can protect both the natural world and our loved ones, ensuring that our intentions are realized in the way we truly desire.

Stouffer Legal can help families navigate the process of passing the wealth to their loved ones at death in a way that keeps the family’s affairs private and within the family. To learn what we do and how we can help, visit

Photo credit: CNN; The Guardian

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