“A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL, PANAMA!”
This favorite palindrome of mine (a palindrome reads the same if you read forward or backwards) includes a plan.
Why it’s important to have a plan and not just documents
When have you ever done anything important without a plan? Rarely, or never? Even if your plan was just in your head, you had a plan to accomplish what you wanted. Planning gives you an idea of what will happen, eliminating uncertainty. An estate plan is no different.
As estate plan is simply a plan for the end of your life, necessary whether your situation is simple, or complicated. In general, plans have many forms, from a formal written plan, to a spoken agreement between people, to a plan in your mind. An estate plan needs to be a formal written plan, or else the plan cannot be carried out. After all, once you have passed away, we cannot ask you for clarification or what you meant to do…attorneys are not spiritual mediums who can hold séances, after all!
An estate plan includes different documents, but a plan is much more than merely documents. An estate plan is a considered approach that lays out what you want.
Documents need to be clear
An estate plan needs to be clear, unambiguous, and free from unintended consequences, or the plan may fail – resulting in fights between family members, hurt feelings, and potential financial costs from court fights. I have explained concepts to clients, and then watched them turn to siblings and explain the exact opposite of what I said, so I had to further explain. Documents need to be as clear as possible. The documents included in an estate plan exist to give instructions and carry out your plan, but the documents need to be part of a larger consideration. An improperly created estate plan, or documents that don’t work together can create unintended consequences – and we see unintended consequences in life all of the time.
An estate plan needs to be crafted to agree with itself, comply with the law, and accomplish the goals and objectives of each individual. Different documents accomplish different objectives and control different activities, and each document serves a purpose as a part of the plan.
Sometimes, different documents are prepared alone, without considering an overall plan. The documents each serve a specific purpose, but a true estate plan looks at all of the documents and how they interact with each other and to accomplish the plan’s purpose.
It is also important to realize that a document may be called one name, but that does not make the documents the same. In the same way that a Ford Pinto and a Ferrari are both called cars, but are different, not all documents called a will, trust, or power of attorney are the same. Some documents are higher quality than others, some have better composition, some agree with each other, while others disagree, and other documents can be disconnected from other documents. A document that is disconnected may be part of the plan, help the plan, confuse the plan, or may even undermine the purposes of the plan.
A proper estate plan is composed of documents that all work together to accomplish a specific purpose. Documents alone are not enough, they need to be tied together as part of a plan. Let’s talk about your plan: Schedule an appointment today…let’s make your plan happen!