I shake my head whenever I hear folks talking about estate and asset protection planning as if it were a transaction or a set of legal and financial strategies and documents that one has to accomplish to save taxes, avoid probate or deal with some other technical aspect of life.
At its core, estate planning and asset protection are people–centered activities, FAR MORE than money–centered activities. At the end of the day, if we zeroed out all of the taxes on your estate, kept you out of probate during your life and your family out of probate upon your death, but your kids and your spouse ended up suing each other because of some deep, long festering problem that we never discussed, I believe your estate plan would be considered a huge failure. Likewise, if all the tax issues are properly managed in your business but you get sued for breach of contract, sexual harassment or because one of your employees gets into a car wreck, you could lose everything in the blink of an eye.
That’s why our estate planning process starts with a discussion of the estate planning pyramid.
The planning pyramid helps us get down to basics. The relationships you have with the people in your life are most important building block of any plan. Only after figuring out the complex world of human behavior and its impact on your life and family, can we discuss the financial, legal and tax strategies that will be helpful to you.
I came across a great book the other day. It’s called “Willing Wisdom – 7 Questions to Ask Before You Die” written by Thomas William Deans, Ph.D. The back cover says the book, “offers readers an inspiring and thought – provoking new approach to writing a Will and living a purposeful life.” I haven’t finished it yet, but at first blush it appears to be a powerful tool to get the conversation started about death (yours or your parents), advanced healthcare directives, choice of guardian for your minor children, money, and the legacy you want to leave. Here’s the problem with most families:
This is a book that I believe can help you get past the awkward stage and engage your family in a real discussion of who we are and what do we want to do with our time here on planet Earth. Also, stay tuned for a couple of great tools that we are developing in–house to help in that regard as well.
Bottom line, you are the expert on your family. We are experts on the law. If you will let us into your life, together we can figure out the best path to leaving a legacy of values, blessing, wisdom and forgiveness, and not just money.
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