Happy New Year! Each January, we have a unique opportunity to review the successes and failures of the prior year and then, perhaps, make a course correction. How do we want our lives to be different? What would make us happier? Healthier? More successful? The answers often flow in a predictable direction. More exercise. Better time management. Fewer French fries. But what about making an unpredictable choice: to finally tackle your estate planning in 2015?
Here are two compelling reasons why this unpredictable option might be a good one:
- Emotional Responsibilities. Responsibility. Not a very sexy concept, is it? Taking out the trash is a responsibility. However, have you ever thought about your emotional responsibilities? Who do you care about so deeply that it’s just ingrained inside of you? Your spouse or partner? Your children? Your grandchildren? Your best friend? Your much loved pet? And, moreover, what do you passionately care about, so much so that it feels like an emotional responsibility? Personally, I deeply care about my law firm and my clients. I’m also passionate about Tennis Outreach Programs, as a long-term member of the Board of Directors, and feel a responsibility for its future.
I challenge you to consider the following:
Your failure to tackle your estate planning is emotionally irresponsible.
Here’s an example. Let’s say the person you love the most in this world is your son, Sam. Sam is five, precocious, smart, funny, and creative. You work hard, every day, to be a great parent to Sam. Then, one evening, you and your partner get a sitter and go out to dinner. On your way, your car is rear ended by a semi on I-5. Both of you die. This thought is so terrifying to most people so as to be paralyzing. If you just say that’ll never happen to you, then it won’t, right? If only life worked that way . . .
When you both die, what happens to Sam? The truth is that, if you haven’t worked through all of the complexities of a Will with your attorney, figured out the terms of a testamentary trust and made sure it was crafted to best serve Sam, and nominated a guardian to take care of Sam – Sam’s future will be determined with zero input from you. Zero. In my opinion, that’s emotionally irresponsible. You’re so scared about the possibility of death that you refuse to plan for it. If it happens, who suffers from your lack of planning? Sam.
That example applies to your spouse, partner, grandchildren, business, charitable pursuits, and anyone and anything else that you love passionately. Do you truly love enough to move past your fears, and take responsibility for what really matters?
- Legacy. Another formidable concept. When you die, what do you leave behind? How will people think of you? Will people respect you? Admire you? Will people understand your values, and who and what you care about the most?
What about Sam? When you die, since Sam is five, he probably won’t put much time into these considerations. But what about when Sam turns 25? Suppose, on Sam’s 25th birthday, he decides to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. You’ve set up a trust for Sam, and it allows expenditures for higher education. The trustee you selected has done a great job of wisely investing the trust’s assets over the last 20 years, just as you hoped. When Sam explains to the trustee that he wants to finance medical school through the trust, the Trustee responds, “Yes, Sam. This is what your Mom and Dad envisioned when they set up this trust before the accident. They wanted to make sure you could access this money to pursue your dreams. It’s here for you, and I can write a check.” Even though Sam doesn’t remember much about you, because he was so young when you died, he actually knows a lot about you because of the planning you did. You’ve established a positive legacy.
What’s the first step in moving forward with this New Year’s Resolution? Please complete our Estate Planning Form and return it to our office. We would love to help you reach this admirable goal in 2015.
Photo: Spirit-Fire on Flickr
This post is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with an attorney.