What is Estate Planning and Why Do It?

When I was planning a series of blogs on estate planning, the title of this first blog came to mind, accompanied by the 1976 recording by Stephen Bishop “Save it for a Rainy Day.” It’s a catchy, upbeat tune with the message that it’s important to plan for tomorrow.

Estate planning is the process – both in thought and in fact – of providing for our individual health care needs (including our possible disability) and the distribution of our assets after we die. Throughout this series of blogs, you’ll note that I refer to death, choosing not to couch it in euphemisms such as “pass away,” or “demise.” That is a conscious decision to remind you, dear reader, that death is both inevitable and not to be feared in and of itself. If you know of anyone who’s been alive for a thousand years, please send their name and contact information so that I can pass along their secret. We have been searching for the fountain of youth for thousands of years, as in the writings of Herodotus, the Alexander romance, and the stories of Prester John, but haven’t found it yet.

My message is that preparing an estate plan will not hasten your death, but failure to do so will inevitably have a negative effect on your future health care and the plans for distributing your assets. What is left when we die – our legacy – is the sum total of our life’s work and we should ensure that our legacy is distributed to the people and institutions we desire. Andrew Carnegie, a titan of the American Industrial Revolution, endowed countless libraries to be used by generations of scholars. We all may not have Carnegie’s riches, but those we do have should be put to their best and highest use once we can no longer use them. Perhaps, they will pass to some unknown benefactor who will make a major contribution to the arts or science.

In this series of articles I will explain the foundational documents included in an estate plan as well as the processes, procedures and players involved. I hope you will continue on this journey with me in order to better inform yourself of the steps required today to ensure your future is well planned. I also direct you to my book, Protect Your Castle: Estate Planning for the New Normal, which is available on Kindle and Amazon for a deeper dive into this topic.