One of my areas of expertise is estate planning. But I often encounter obstacles when I talk with clients about this work.
First, what is it? Most clients haven’t done estate planning. Not surprisingly, they’re not sure what it involves.
Second, once they learn the details, many want to know whether it’s something they really need or if they can put it off.
Let’s get it out in the open: Estate planning involves putting your finances and other affairs in order so they’re organized when you die. There, I said it. Estate planning involves thinking about what life looks like after you’re gone. But it encompasses so much more.
The best way to say it is estate planning ensures that you achieve your priorities. It includes arranging for the most efficient way to transfer your assets after you pass away. But it also includes setting up the right mechanisms if you become physically or mentally incapacitated during your lifetime. Like death, incapacitation is not a pleasant thought. But we’re wise to make plans just in case.
Once we’ve covered the outlines of estate planning, I often hear objections from clients about getting going. So, let me run through them and how I respond.
Objection 1: “I don’t want to think about that. I don’t want to talk about my own demise!”
My response: Our work won’t be focused on death. Rather, our conversations will be about your loved ones, what’s important to you and how to optimize your assets to achieve your priorities.
Objection 2: “It’s going to take so much time and be a hassle. I don’t have time to do that now..”
My response: You’ll need to invest time. But the process is usually easier and less time-consuming than most anticipate. I’ll give you a framework to assemble the information. When the work is done, clients often express satisfaction about having a full picture of their assets as well as a complete estate plan.
Objection 3: “I don’t have an estate, so I don’t need a plan.”
My response: This generally is not true. It also overlooks a key part of estate planning—dealing with the possibility of incapacity during your lifetime.
First, if you have a house, you have an estate. If you have a checking account, you have an estate. If you have a retirement account, you have an estate. That’s not to say that everyone needs a thick binder full of legal documents to transfer their assets. But anyone with any asset could benefit by making sure that their assets are properly set up to transfer effectively.
Effective transfer usually means avoiding an expensive and time-consuming court process called probate, which can kick in for people without an estate plan.
Also, having the proper documents in place is critical to addressing the possibility of incapacity during your lifetime. Most people want to identify the people in their lives who they’d want to act on their behalf if they were unable to do so.
Once we work through some or all of those objections, my clients and I then develop a custom estate plan that fits their needs.
To address asset-transfer needs, some of the tools we use are:
- Wills and trusts, the two main documents for framing out an estate plan
- Beneficiary designations, which clarify to whom assets should transfer
- Transfer deeds, which help with the transfer of houses, land, and other real estate
- Gifting strategies, which can start immediately or later, depending on client needs and wishes
For incapacity planning, the tools usually include:
- Powers of attorney, which involve naming someone to make decisions for you if you can’t
- Health-care directives, which outline how and whether you want to receive care based on specific health conditions
Estate planning is important work—and not as time-consuming or death-focused as people think. I also can tailor plans to fit a range of client budgets. Most important, I’ve never had a client who doesn’t feel more confident and comfortable after developing an estate plan.
I’d love to work with you—and help you feel the satisfaction of organization, too.