• Estate Planning Is For Everyone
  • July 1, 2003
  • Law Firm: Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLP
  • What do plants, "Topsy" and estates have in common? Usually, before you even realize it, your estate has "grown." When this happens without involvement on your part, except for maybe a little nurturing and watering along the way, your estate may become so unwieldy and hard to manage that only drastic measures can make it fit into your plans for your own and your family's future.

    All this is a way of saying that estate planning is important. Not just when there is a real expectation of dying, but through all of the stages of your life.

    You owe it to yourself and your family to take a financial physical now, and to repeat it every few years. You should formulate goals or plans, take stock of your assets and liabilities, consider the future both short-range and long-range, and determine how to provide for yourself and your family during your life and after your death. This is the process of estate planning. It is not a static process, since circumstances change, as do people. Your estate requires a continuous updating of thoughts.

    Translating your thoughts into actions requires well-thought-out instruments such as wills, possible trusts, interfamily transfers, etc. In all this you should consider the impact of taxes -- income, gift, estate, and generation-skipping. Complicating these thoughts and actions is the ever-changing nature of the tax laws.

    However, taxes should be a secondary consideration. Of primary importance is accomplishing what you wish to do to benefit your loved ones. The competent estate planning expert will assist the client in following through with his or her desires at the least tax cost. Such devices as lifetime gifts to family, charitable bequests both during life and at death, use of the marital deduction, and proper beneficiary designations of life insurance, can supplement the provisions of wills and trusts to produce an effective estate plan.

    There are two inevitable things in life -- death and taxes. Estate planning is the means to ensure that one doesn't cause the other. And along the way there are many risks. You can guard against, or at least alleviate, some of these risks by life or health or disability insurance but other bumps in life's road may come without forewarning. Forethought is important, therefore, to protect yourself and your family.

    Since the rest of your life will be spent in the future, the sooner you come to grips with the present and plan for the future, the better your future will be. Failure to plan could lead you one day to wake up, or (what is worse) not wake up, to find that your estate has just "grown" without the pruning and planning which could have made your life more beautiful. Estate planning is for everyone.