Estate Planning Solutions: Lifespan™ Planning
Estate planning is not about documents - it's about results!
The key to proper estate planning is clear, comprehensive, customized instructions for your own care and for the care of your loved ones. Your instructions can be included in a combination of documents including a will, trust and several other coordinated documents. We find that most of our clients are best served with a combination of legal tools, backed up by the the Three Step Strategy™ of Lifespan™ Planning.
Lifespan™ Planning is a comprehensive approach to estate planning that involves three distinct steps:
STEP 1: WORK WITH A COUNSELLING-ORIENTED ATTORNEY
It seems that much of what passes for estate planning in our country is little more than word processing! We don't think you should pay a licensed professional to do word processing. Their value is in their counsel and advice, based on knowledge, wisdom and experience. If word processing is all you want, you may as well do it yourself (yes, there are software programs available to do fill-in-the-blank estate plans)! If you want an estate plan that will work - do everything you want it to, efficiently and smoothly - you need thorough legal counselling. A legal counselor will help you consider the pros and cons of the wide array of opportunities you have available in estate planning, opportunities like these:
- laying out instructions for your own care in case of your disability so your children don't have to feel guilty for making the hard decisions about your care;
- achieving "predator" (divorce and lawsuit) protection for your heirs;
- making sure your young children are raised the way you want;
- making sure your spouse is not "taken advantage of" for their money after you're gone;
- making sure money is available when your heirs are pursuing education the way you want them to;
- avoiding estate taxes without giving up other protections that may be more important to you;
- minimizing legal and other professional fees throughout the entire estate planning process.
Many ideas that are most popular with our clients are opportunities the client had never thought of or heard about before we mentioned it to them. A counselling-oriented attorney will draw on his or her experience - sort of a database of different planning ideas and options - and probe the innumerable possibilities for your family.
STEP 2: ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN A FORMAL UPDATING PROGRAM
An estate plan faces a myriad of changes. First, there is the constant change in your personal, family and financial situation. Second, there is constant change in both tax laws and other laws that affect your estate plan. And third, there is constant change in your attorney's experience and expertise. Your professional advisors are - or should be - continually improving through ongoing education and collected experience.
Since so many estate planning issues are constantly changing, no legal paper can be expected to fully accomplish what it was intended to accomplish unless it is regularly updated. Why not have a periodic review with your estate planning attorney to update your asset titling, review your goals, and update the legal documents to reflect current law? Fees would be prohibitive, you say? Okay, if fees are minimal and predictable, then why not do it? Lifespan™ Planning enables us to deliver that systematic updating service to our clients. See our web page on "Keeping Your Plan Current".
STEP 3: ASSURE FULLY-DISCLOSED AND CONTROLLED SETTLEMENT COSTS AFTER YOUR DEATH
The cost of any estate plan has three parts: the part you pay for counselling and design at the beginning (or whatever you pay for word processing, if you opt for that); the part you pay for updating periodically (or the larger cost of failing to keep the plan up-to-date); and the part your loved ones pay after your death to carry out your instructions for dividing and distributing your property.
Wills go through probate. Trusts have to be settled. A properly created and maintained trust will generally require less work to settle than probating a will would for the same assets. But in either case, assets must be transferred and often death tax returns must be prepared. Professional fees will be incurred. When you are discussing the cost of estate planning with anyone, be sure you are discussing - getting commitments, estimates, etc. - the total cost of all three parts of the plan before you begin to plan. (For tips on this, see our web page "How To Shop")
A proper estate plan will meet your goals and will keep you in control of the process and the results!
Don't sell yourself short of getting a plan that WORKS!