A question I am often asked as an estate planning attorney is basic: what is estate planning? Estate planning is commonly thought of as protecting, preserving and enhancing families by accumulating, conserving, and distributing assets. From this perspective, tax, tools and techniques are important. Just as significant is the opportunity to pass values to loved ones. Estate plans help individuals tangibly care for family and loved ones. Yet, for every plan, I ask this – if none of your beneficiaries survive, where do you want your wealth to go? Many clients name individuals or charities they care about.
For many, this is understandably a difficult question to consider and answer. I am taking courses to become a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) and learning about how to help individuals thoughtfully consider this dilemma. I begin with a question – what is your personal vision for the world and for yourself? Every person has a unique answer, and this is much of what makes estate planning such a joy. A list of questions to consider as you create your estate plan are listed below.
First, even 18-year-olds need estate plans to choose the people they want to manage their financial affairs and to make their health care decisions in the event of incapacity with the creation of Durable Powers of Attorney and health care documents. As they consider how they will live their lives and as you guide younger family members as they make decisions about the values that they will live by, a couple of important questions to reflect on are the kind of person you want to be and the kind of world you would like to be part of. For older adults, it is worth thinking about the kind of world you want for the younger generation.
In mid-life, a good question to reflect on starts with thinking about when you were younger. Did you have goals back then that you have not yet accomplished but you still want to pursue? If so, how can you work toward these goals now? Beyond yourself and your loved ones, would you like to have a positive impact on any people or things in this world?
Finally, for individuals toward the end of their lives, an interesting posture is to think about one’s estate plan as the final piece of teaching that you are able to impart as a legacy you leave to your loved ones.
What would you like your estate plan to say?
I would love to listen and hear your thoughts and work with you to create an estate plan to accomplish your goals and reflect your values.
Natalene B. Ong, Esq. is an estate planning attorney at Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC, a law firm in Dedham that focuses on advising clients in estate planning, special needs planning, estate and trust administration and elder law. For more information, visit www.ssbllc.com or call (781) 461-1020. This article is not intended to provide legal advice or create or imply an attorney-client relationship. No information contained herein is a substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney.
© 2019 Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC