“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
—Psalm 16:6 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Estate planning has a funny reputation. Most people think of it solely as “death” planning—who will get their assets after they die?
While estate planning is certainly about deciding who you will leave your assets to, it should be, and it can be, much more than that. It should be called “life” planning, because modern estate planning is about planning for what happens to you during your life as well as what happens to your surviving spouse and your children and grandchildren after you die.
Thinking Ahead: The Lives of Those You Love and Will Leave Behind
Modern estate planning looks into the future not just to your death but also to the time of your life before you die and at many years after you die. It looks at how you and your spouse will manage each other in case of disability and how, once you die, your spouse will best be cared for.
Modern estate planning looks even deeper into the future once both spouses have passed way. It deals with how your assets should best be given to your children and perhaps your grandchildren in this sense: proper estate planning will look at the personalities, capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses of not only your children and their spouses but also at your wishes for your grandchildren.
Solid estate planning will take into consideration potential threats to your, your spouse’s, your children’s and your grandchildren’s wellbeing. It will weigh the risks and utilize time-tested techniques to deal with threats to your assets and to your family.
Generic Planning Documents Just Won’t Do
Estate planning is so much more than simply pulling a form off the Internet or filling out a do-it-yourself document. These are flimsy tools when it comes to estate planning, and using them and then relying on them to give you a sense of security may give you a sense of security, but it will be a false sense of security. You could be setting yourself and others up for major heartache when it comes time for these “cookie-cutter,” noncustomized documents to actually perform.
You could conceivably lose so much more in time, money, and peace of mind by any attempt to save a few dollars with standard, generic wills and trust forms. What’s worse, after your death, you could leave your spouse, children—all of those you want to help—with avoidable losses and great messes to clean up. It’s the same as an army using faulty armor plating; soldiers may feel secure behind it, but they’ll be terribly harmed when it fails to do what it’s supposed to do.
The Mortality Rate is Terribly High
Why do people put off planning? I want to tell you something very personal—I’m going to die. I just don’t know when. You’re going to die as well. You’ve lived your life trying to be responsible, trying to take care of your obligations, and now is not the time to stop. People you love are counting on you.