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The Importance of Defining Core Values For Estate Planning

Defining Core Values for Estate Planning

Lots of things in life are simple. As individuals we can get pretty complicated when it comes to identifying who we really are and what is really important to us.  I believe this is because we live in a world of constant distraction. We are bombarded with relentless marketing that is designed to tell us who we are and what we need to be. This reality of our modern world can make it especially challenging when defining core values for estate planning.

This isn’t a soap box article. It’s just that all of this “noise” can keep us from really knowing ourselves and what is really most important to us.  As I’ve said in the past, an exceptional estate planner can help you identify your deepest values.  How this is done in the context of your Florida estate planning is the subject of today’s article.

Core Values and Your Florida Estate Plan

When it comes to your Florida estate planning, what matters the most to you is all that really matters.

Many people embark down the road of estate planning out of a sense of duty.  While I greatly respect folks’ sense of responsibility toward their family, I also encourage them to think about the idea of a “legacy”.  While there are many definitions for the term “legacy”, one that stands out is “something that is handed from one period of time to another.  The exciting thing is that this “thing that is handed down” can be whatever you want it to be!

For some, creating an incentive for heirs to get a quality education is crucial.  For others, charitable donations are very important and the specific charities are of major importance.  Business succession, preservation of family assets and fostering family harmony are all other examples of key values.

The way to determine your deepest values, as applied to your estate planning, is to know the right questions to ask.

Often, when I’ve unleashed frustration toward well meaning “self help” companies, I’ve mentioned that the problem with folks using them is that “you don’t know what you don’t know”, and do it yourself (DIY) estate planning services cannot possibly give you the attention needed to ask the right question.

Defining Core Values with an Experienced Florida Estate Planner

What I mean is that intuition and a close connection is often necessary for an experienced estate attorney to identify areas of key importance as well as areas of potential problems.

I can only give you examples to support my point such as a recent client who was only going to give his son 15% of the estate and the other 2 children would each receive more.  His reasoning was that this son is not responsible with money.  When I continued to ask him questions, he revealed that he wanted his son to receive the same amount but did not trust him with it.  When my client discovered that another one of his “more responsible” children could assist his other son in administering his share, my client was much more at ease with his plan, and I believe this is because it more closely matched his core values.

For some, related concerns such as asset protection is more important than estate planning and for others avoiding probate is a primary concern.

I notice that individuals who have been in tough situations with creditors are often much more motivated to pursue an Florida estate plan with an emphasis in “Florida asset protection” oriented estate plan. This just means that these folks are more likely to create a plan that includes entities such as a Florida LLC or Florida Land Trust as well as “spendthrift protection” for the trust beneficiaries. This is just another example of core values that are uncovered during the initial estate evaluation process through thoughtful questioning.

So, my suggestion is not to finalize your Florida estate planning unless you’ve gone through this defining process with your trusted Florida estate planning attorney.  After all, you’re really seeking peace of mind when doing your estate planning, and this be hard to come by when you haven’t identified your deepest values.

This article is an update of a previous article posted on September 24, 2015. 

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