Problem:

For most families, “estate planning” is often a difficult undertaking.  This stems from the notion that planning for the transfer of assets from one generation to the next must include a discussion about illness, mortality and death.  This truth is inescapable, however, proper estate planning is best conducted when time is taken to do so rationally and outside of any traumatic, triggering events.

Too often, families do not consider formal estate planning until one of four distinct, triggering events takes place:  1) a marriage; 2) the birth of children or grandchildren; 3) a divorce or separation; or 4) death of a spouse, parent, or other loved one.  Unfortunately, the most common trigger event is the last.  The problem with estate planning around these triggering events is that emotions are running high and often a clear perspective is hard to come by.   The outcome is generally a shortsighted plan, which often is in need of amendment and change down the road.

Solution:

Begin consultation with an estate planning professional at a time when there is no triggering event.  Often, people think that an estate plan should be discussed when considerable assets and wealth are accumulated.  However, this understanding fails to take into consideration the many other aspects of estate planning – such as Healthcare Directives, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, and other documents which may direct others to make decisions and use resources absent direct authority from the person for whom those decisions need to be made.

Proper estate planning should include a discussion of all aspects of asset distribution, as well as personal and intimate wishes for healthcare and family.  As such, discussions for estate planning are best conducted over several meetings where care is taken to understand decisions and outcomes of decisions.  Often, the best estate planning is careful, considered, and concluded after much thought and discussion.

Result:

Estate planning is at its best and most thorough when done outside of life’s triggering events.  An individual or couple, consulting an estate planner, can achieve best results when care is taken to discuss all of the possibilities, outcomes, and make good, rational decisions.

Lessons Learned:

Don’t wait for one of life’s triggering events to create your estate plan. If you do so, you risk the peril of an irrational, shortsighted plan, which will be in need of amendment or change in short order.  This results in increased legal costs and increased family confusion.  Begin your estate planning when you feel comfortable with your estate planning professional and are in a place in life in which you can make rational decisions concerning your family and your assets.