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Estate Planning

Estate Planning is all about distribution – of one’s material ASSETS, one’s VALUES, and CONTROL. As such, it is never too early to begin this process. As soon as one is asked to name a beneficiary – when signing up for a company-sponsored 401(K) Plan, e.g. – you are making an estate planning decision, identifying your heirs, who is next in line to receive your savings. It is often the first-time folks have to think about “who gets their stuff” after they’re gone, often a first intimation of mortality, and an important opportunity to begin the lifelong planning required to make sure you get it right.

Of course, this decision becomes more complicated as the years fly by, and that’s where Wills come into play, but “stuff” is not all there is to “distribute” –- ideally, we want to share our values and ideas with our families and our communities – family meetings and “Ethical Wills” can sometimes identify and formalize what we want to share in a direct and dynamic way. Trusts of all kinds, “Powers of Attorney”, and “Advanced Medical Directives “allow us to codify or cede control over our financial, medical, and legal affairs during our lifetimes, and when we are no longer able to act on our own behalf.

Comprehensive financial planning helps us prepare for these decisions over all life stages in a way that takes our families, finances, health, and values into account. We help individuals and families work with their attorneys and other advisers and create a plan that is both flexible for when life take us in unanticipated directions, and structured in order to minimize impediments, friction caused by taxes, legal constraints, and interpersonal and family issues. There are many ways to maximize estate transfer, a goal for many of us. Strategies can involve creative use of insurance, legacy-specific investment strategies. Yet others involve careful budgeting and effective communications. The main thing is that all elements of one’s financial life contribute to this eventual distribution, and it is never too early to begin the process, and (almost) never too late!

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