Here is our definition of estate planning, as set forth in Keith’s book, “Introduction to Estate Planning – How to Protect and Pass on Your Legacy,” Bardolf & Company, 2017.
We define estate planning as follows:
“I want to control my property while I’m alive and well, take care of myself and my family if I become disabled, and give what I have to whom I want, the way I want, and when I want. Furthermore, I want to save every last tax dollar, professional fee and court cost legally possible.”
There is a lot packed into that definition. First, whatever we do, you should end up feeling that you have more control than you did before the planning.
Good estate planning doesn’t just benefit your family. Good estate planning helps you maintain control. That means more power to make the decisions that affect your health and your property. More authority and more options. Ultimately, it means more dignity.
So, while you’re healthy and going about your business, your planning should be invisible. It shouldn’t complicate your life or limit your ability to do whatever you want. Then, when you need it, the planning should kick in without delay, controversy or expense to make sure your wishes are followed even if something has happened to you.
Of course, estate planning deals with death. However, statistically you are more likely to become disabled than to die in any given year. So, your estate planning should help you maintain control if you become disabled. For instance, how do we decide if your condition is serious enough that you are “incapacitated”? Who will make that call? A judge who has never met you? And, if that call is made, who will handle your affairs? You should be the one making these decisions ahead of time, not someone else when it’s too late for you to have any input.
Then, yes, when you are gone, good estate planning means that what you wanted to happen does happen—with no family disputes and with no unnecessary expenses or complications.