Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus (when it comes to your life planning)

August 3, 2015 - Posted by: admin - In category:

taxes - No Responses

This wonderful children’s story teaches important life lessons, including in the context of life planning.

When my younger son was a toddler, he absolutely loved the pigeon books by Mo Willems. Josh would insist that we read those books to him over and over and over until he had them memorized (even though he could not yet read). Recently, as I was reading these books with my daughter, I was reminded of my younger son’s earlier love of these books, and given recent events in my estate planning practice, I also thought about how the book “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus” is a fitting warning and analogy for many people as they design and implement their life planning. I will explain below how the pigeon story fits into my world of business and estate planning.

Earlier this year, I was working with a recently-widowed client. This dear client was coping admirably with the challenges of losing a beloved spouse of many years, along with all of the difficulties associated that unfortunate event. The good news is that prior to the passing of the first spouse, husband and wife had worked and saved and prepared carefully so that the surviving spouse was now left with an abundance of financial resources. The surviving spouse will never run out of money, regardless of how long the surviving spouse lives. This is no small blessing! At the same time, this large estate has presented a new set of challenges. The surviving spouse is now required to determine how to best utilize such resources, now and in the future, while honoring the wishes of the deceased spouse. All of that makes sense and though it is not easy, it is manageable with a little thought and with proper guidance from qualified professionals. Then, along comes the pigeon…seeking to drive the bus!!!

The children in this family are adults and are on their own and doing reasonably well in life. Even so, some of the children believe that they are entitled to direct the surviving parent as to what should be done with the abundant financial resources, both now and in the future. There is a significant feeling of entitlement with these particular children and they seem to believe that their wants, their wishes and desires should rule the day–RIGHT NOW! At first glance, you may not see the connection between the pigeon and the children, but go ahead and read or re-read the “pigeon and the bus” book again and as you do, consider the absurdity of the pigeon’s perspective, the unreasonable and inappropriate demands of the pigeon and the pigeon’s unwillingness to consider the bigger and correct picture. I see many similarities between the imaginary pigeon wanting to drive the bus and these selfish children.

To summarize, as you consider your life planning options and as you implement and maintain such planning, please be sure to remember that however angelic and wonderful your loved ones are today, there is no guarantee that they (or their spouses or significant others) will remain so angelic later. Please also remember that a widowed spouse, particularly one who is older, can be easily persuaded by children and others and such persuasion will often focus on the needs and desires of the younger beneficiaries, sometimes in stark contradiction to the best interests of the surviving spouse. What can be done to prevent and protect against this? Actually, there are a good many things that can be done and such things are not all that complicated. It just takes some forethought and planning. And remember…

PLEASE DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS!!!!!

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