Planning a vacation is an endeavor that most of us can get really excited about. Estate planning, on the other hand, can be viewed as a burdensome process for many reasons. So, it is understandable that many people spend more time doing vacation planning than doing estate planning.
For all of us, it is more challenging to spend time doing things that are less exciting. After all, reviewing your insurance coverage or paying bills lacks the luster of booking your accommodations at an all inclusive resort. I usually refer to the less exciting stuff as “big people stuff”.
With all of that said, there are some real advantages to getting inspired about the big people stuff and giving it the same attention as the fun stuff. What if the big people stuff can actually be fun?
The Same Steps That Most People Take To Plan A Vacation Can Be Applied To “Big People Stuff” Like Estate Planning
The key question for today’s fun analogy is what is involved in planning a vacation, so we can apply these steps to other big people tasks. I submit that the following steps would apply:
1. Decide Who Is Coming Along and When
In the same way that you would decide who is coming with you on vacation, you would need to decide who your appointed fiduciaries as well as the beneficiaries of your estate plan will be. After all, some of the same values apply when you’re deciding who to include in this important process.
2. Research Your Preferred Destination
Rather than a physical destination, for estate planning purposes you might consider what you would like the final outcome of your estate plan to be. After all, we are all heading toward a certain outcome and the only question is whether we’re being intentional about it. So in the same way you might consider a trip to the mountains verses a trip to the beach, you can ask yourself whether you’d like your estate to end up as an immediate distribution to your children (equally or otherwise) or whether you would like a portion of your estate held in trust (equally or otherwise) for your grandchildren. You might also consider whether your final estate planning destination will included special instructions such as precautions against drug use or a high emphasis on education.
3. Researching Your Preferred Means Of Travel and Accommodations
Just as you might travel by commercial airlines verses or car or train, there are different vehicles to accomplish your goals in the estate planning world. I’ve often written about the various vehicles, or documents needed for every estate plan, so suffice to say that a revocable living trust in Florida is an entirely different way to pass estate assets to beneficiaries than relying solely on a simple last will and testament in Florida.
4. Research Local Attractions and Perhaps Purchase Advance Tickets
So, your travel plans are made in that you’ve determined who is coming along, your preferred destination and your means of arriving at your preferred destination. A final step may be to work on some fine tuning once you’ve arrived. Rather than purchasing advance tickets to Disney World, fine tuning could involve prepaying funeral expenses, or creating a memorandum or list of distributions for personal property items. In the same way that this kind of fine tuning can make your vacation go much more smoothly and economically, so does this kind of planning save your estate money and your loved ones unnecessary stress in the long run.
Ok, so I do need to mention that I am not oblivious to the fact that estate planning will most likely never be as fun as planning your next relaxing vacation. However, I submit to you that much of the struggle that can be associated with doing big people stuff is simply a matter of perception…and…doing your estate planning is about your legacy and thus may actually become more inspiring than planning your vacation….depending on how you look at it.
Steve Gibbs, Esq.