There is a misconception that an estate planning strategy is something the wealthy do later…
When choosing a new car, most folks think first about how it will suit their lifestyle and family needs before considering specs. Essential questions include whether the vehicle is big enough for kids, parents, and friends alike, whether it’s pup appropriate (if you have a dog), and if it’ll get everyone to all the places they need to go, including school, work, and vacation.
Only once a style has been settled on that meet all the requirements—be it a sedan, SUV, minivan, or motorcycle—do folks start to compare models. Safety ratings, driving comfort, storage space, and fuel efficiency might all come into place but no one thinks about whether constituent parts such as doors, airbags, or an engine are included. These are taken for granted and left to the experts to design. Choosing an estate plan is no different.
The most important consideration for anyone looking to build an estate plan—and, let’s be honest, that should be everyone—are the people the plan is designed to serve. Just as with a car, this means assessing your needs, your family’s needs, and the values you seek to uphold. In addition, it’s important to understand that your estate plan reflects your present circumstances and can be changed, upgraded, or remodeled in the future—just like your car. Both the vehicle that you choose for your assets and the vehicle you choose for your errands is apt to change as your life grows.
Key questions to ask of yourself before heading to the estate planning dealership (i.e. your local attorney’s office) include:
- How far does your family extend?
- Are you planning for just you? You and a spouse? Or do you have children, grandchildren, and extended relatives that you aim to care for, too?
- What abilities and inabilities exist in your family?
- What are your core values?
- What are your financial goals, both long term and short?
- Should you become incapacitated or pass away, who would you want to make decisions on your behalf?
Upon the basis of your answers to these questions, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you choose an estate planning model. You need not worry ahead of time about whether you need a revocable living trust, a will, life insurance, or any other specific documents. A good lawyer will walk you through the specifications needed to meet your goals and will present a range of options for you to consider.
The best lawyers—and we’d like to think we’re among them—will even encourage your trusted advisors to participate in the process. After all, a plan that incorporates not only legal considerations, but accounting, financial, and insurance ones, too, is a far better plan than one that doesn’t.
Once such a plan has been designed, you need not worry about its structural integrity any more than you need to worry about the structural integrity of your car doors. Ensuring that your plan not only meets your needs but is well-crafted and reliable is your attorney’s job.
At The Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm, we take this job very seriously. If you are thinking about putting an estate plan together, it would be our pleasure to speak with you about the make and model best suited to your needs!
For more information, view our recent YouTube video on this topic, or call our offices to schedule a consultation.