While the weather continues to be gloomy, your estate documents’ future doesn’t have to be.
When drafting your documents keep two things in mind in order to help them “weather the storm” of life: first – draft documents that will stand the test of time and last through your lifetime; and second – draft documents that can adapt to changing conditions without the need for revision.
In order to shine some light on the future of your documents, take steps to make them last as long as possible. No, I’m not talking about the paper they are printed on, I’m talking about making the terms relevant for as many years as possible. Time flies and pretty soon those documents may start to get dated if you don’t think long term.
Young(ish) clients who have children in their teens or twenties look at me with such surprise when I ask about grandchildren. They are still getting used to their “babies” entering adulthood. However, as we discuss, their children aren’t that far away from starting families of their own and yes, that often means grandchildren. Figuring a way to incorporate unborn yet likely grandchildren is an excellent way to get extra miles out of your estate plan investment. This way, as soon as your first grandchild is born, you aren’t swinging by the attorney’s office on the way back from the hospital to be sure your baby’s baby is taken care of.
My, not-so-young clients usually already have grandchildren but they are still young. If something were to happen to their children, how does their plan handle minor grandchildren or great grandchildren – yes, they exist! Having a well conceived plan can account for all these issues and can even be put into place at any age.
By having forethought and discussing these issues with your attorney, not only can you save money and headache by establishing a long lasting plan, but you get tremendous piece of mind knowing your plan can handle the many years your family will live.
But we all know life doesn’t always go as planned. Arguably, it is difficult if not impossible to plan through multiple generations. So what do we do then?
As I counsel clients and we discuss likely scenarios, I often ask, “Well, what if things don’t go like that?” As usual, I am met with blank stares and confused looks. It is natural to assume or at a minimum, hope, that things will go as planned but I am here to break the news to you that this isn’t always the case. I know – shocking, right?
So how can you plan for the unexpected? Well, the answer is different for everyone but when preparing comprehensive estate planning documents, the easiest way is to give discretion to those who will be in charge of your estate. Yes, you’ll need to pick someone that you trust to avoid misappropriation or other nefarious issues. Thankfully, many people have someone they can trust.
I bring this up because most of my clients are always thinking about the worst-case scenario. What if this happens, what if that happens? Yes, bad things happen but in reality the opposite is usually the case. A harmless and unexpected issue has arisen and the person in charge of the estate isn’t given the discretion to resolve the matter. Therefore, we are off to the lawyer’s office to change the documents. A little discretion can go a long way in estate planning – just not too much. Everything in moderation, even estate planning!
So as you weather the storm this winter, consider having your estate plan prepared or reviewed by someone who has weathered many storms before you – they just might have some useful advice.
Eric S. Gullotta, JD, CPA, MS (Tax) focuses on estate planning and taxation law. His office is located at 232 West Napa Street, Suite A, in Sonoma. Contact him at 938.7234 or visit Gullottalaw.com.