Nov 1, 2007
Clients often think "estate planning" is either broader or narrower than it is. Estate planning is not financial planning (although financial planning is certainly a part of it). Nor does executing a Will complete the estate planning process. Indeed, the word "plan" is instructional. A good estate plan is a kind of "blueprint" for an overall plan for family issues, dealing with incapacity, succession planning (particularly where family businesses are involved) and distribution of assets upon death. Thought must be given to each possible event when putting together the plan.
Estate planners have often referred to their job as "what if" planning. It is our job to consider all of the "what ifs" that might occur -- questions like: What if an heir, or designated agent, executor or trustee dies prior to your death? What if you die and your children have not yet reached the age of majority? What if after you make the plan, you experience incapacity and circumstances or the laws change in a way that negatively impacts the plan?
A good estate plan consists of a number of tools which when combined properly allow your designated successor(s) to effectively and efficiently carry out your wishes. Wills, Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney, Business Entities, Joint Ownership, Beneficiary Designations are all tools which, when properly known and understood can achieve a highly successful result. Conversely, just possessing one or more of the tools and using them incorrectly, can create worse problems than doing nothing might have.
Over the next months, I'll share some thoughts on the use of some of these tools, as well as current ideas, techniques, and pitfalls of estate planning.
Thanks for reading . . . . . . .