It’s not uncommon for folks to consider estate planning solely as death planning—who will get their stuff when they die. While estate planning does address this limited question, estate planning is much more than just end-of-life planning. Proper estate planning is about planning for life, including what happens to you, your family, and your property during your life as well as what happens at your disability or death.
Although estate planning is not primarily death planning, it does account for end-of-life situations. In preparing for that event—again, it’s a when, not an if—you will want to control how your property is given to the people or organizations nearest to your heart. To ensure your wishes are respected and followed, you need to provide legally valid instructions stating whom you want to receive assets, what you want them to receive, and when they are to receive it. At the same time, you will want to do all you can to minimize taxes, legal fees, and court costs.
Again, estate planning deals with such life issues as:
- disability protection
- divorce protection
- planning for retirement
- financial planning
- investment management
- tax planning
- caring for minor and special-needs children
- charitable giving
- business succession
- farm succession
- asset protection
- planning for long-term care
As you can see, this is life planning.
In all my years as an attorney, I have dealt with accountants, financial advisors, tax advisors, insurance agents, annuity salespeople, and related professionals daily because proper estate planning is a team effort, and these professionals are the team members. Of course I have nothing against morticians, but they’re just not usually members of estate planning teams.