We talk often about the importance of a well-thought out estate plan. Such planning includes giving thought to and identifying your goals and concerns, addressing those goals in a manner that makes most sense to you and fits your needs, and communicating your plan to family. With that in mind, I read with great interest a recent article that the “father of our country,” George Washington, did exactly that when formulating his last will and testament in 1799. See Chris Creed, Smart Tips for Estate Planning: Write Your Will Like George Washington Did, Kiplinger, August 9, 2019. Whether it’s a will-based plan or a trust-based plan, we can all benefit from following his example.
Estate Planning for those you love can dramatically alter the course of your family for generations. In his last will and testament of 1799, George Washington, laid out a clear vision for his legacy, financing the establishment of a home for orphans and what is now Washington and Lee University, forgiving debts, and providing for his wife and others close to him.
Washington’s will was specific and well-planned. He admitted that it took many of his leisure hours to get it just the way he wanted it. His goals and concerns are familiar to many of us today: family, friends, and philanthropy. The document was quite personal and was unambiguous due to Washington’s effort in proper communication, clarity, and customization, three guidelines that are still important today for estate planning.
Communicate your wishes not only to your estate planning attorney or advisor, but also to your spouse and children. Let them know what you expect of your legacy as well as furthering the family legacy. Making your last intentions as clear as possible is also important, as there may be certain nuances to your wishes, especially if the distribution of certain assets is not equal. A particular level of customization can be useful for any estate plan and can make it uniquely yours. It is important to work with an advisor who appreciates the intricacies of your financial picture, as well as the subtleties of your vision and values.
Follow George Washington’s footsteps by crafting a detailed and personal estate plan. After all, it’s not just about your assets, it’s about your legacy and passing on values and life’s lessons.