In the process of assisting families with their estate plans I have discovered some helpful tips that make the job a lot easier. In each case a primary goal was referred to that helped put all the small details neatly into place. Secondly, flexibility was essential to keep everyone’s concerns planned for.  Having a written financial plan that is referred to now and, in the future, will make the executor and/or the trustee’s job much easier to carry out. Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements and see how each will benefit most any family.

Failure to plan is usually the biggest mistake that can cause both financial and relational disasters. Having a well-defined goal, that mom and/or dad can agree on will help motivate the process along.  It will also show how the current plan may or may not achieve that goal.  Some families will have obvious health or care needs of a beneficiary as a primary objective while others may have a blended family and want to make sure that no one is unintentionally disinherited.  When these types of primary goals are communicated to an experienced professional, a suitable team can be assembled to start drafting a plan.  If there is ever a question in the process, asking how this factor will achieve the goal can keep the process on track.

Some couples put off completing their plan because they get bogged down in all the “what ifs” of retirement and aging.  What if one of us get’s sick and needs long term care? What if we live to long and need more money to live on? What if I get locked into something I can’t get out of?  These are all very real concerns and if not handled correctly can cause problems that are very real. This is where experience comes in to show how others with similar concerns were able to build flexibility into their planning that spelled out the “If this, then that” contingencies into your written estate and financial plan. Financial firms have developed suitable products that are created for extatically these issues and they are always adapting and improving to stay relevant and competitive. Flexibility is key to peace of mind in Estate planning.

In my opinion, the most overlooked of these tips is the written financial plan (WFP).  It seems obvious that this is the one document that could easily reference both the primary goal along with the built-in flexibility of the plan that none of the legal documents are designed to do.  A written financial plan is also adaptable, should be reviewed annually and is easier to change than the legal documents. It also will be invaluable for the next generation who will be called upon to execute the plan.  The death of a loved one is devastating and anything that can be done to ease the burden for the family will be much appreciated.  Most financial planners will be happy to write out the financial blueprint and any tax implications and that they used while designing and presenting their plan. They also might include the gift givers intentions and recommendations for the beneficiary’s consideration.  All things considered; the WFP is the best way to tie all the planning together to communicate to those you are doing all this for.

I hope you see that breaking down the process into these 3 important steps, getting the right team together and communicating this to your family will go along way in making your estate planning a smooth process.  We all know the old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. My hope is that by reading this article you and your family will have the confidence to get started and work through the process end enjoy the peace of mind of a job well done. Good luck and happy planning.

Estate Planning