Estate Planning Mistakes and Tips
By Lee R. Phillips
Secret tips in estate planning aren’t really that secret. However, the attorneys “hide the ball” and speak in big words so that the general public can’t understand. After all, as an attorney you have to go to school for an extra three years, so that you can learn to speak and write so the public can’t understand. So in a sense, maybe there are a lot of secret tips in estate planning.
One of the biggest secrets is estate planning basics isn’t rocket science, but there are lots of traps. Legal Doom and other web sites make it sound so easy. Just answer ten questions and the document automatically appears in the mail. Of course, the documents are fine, but what did you really get? You got the lowest common denominator document. It fits everyone. If you are everyone, it works great. Are you really the lowest common denominator?
I have almost 30 pages of questions that I go through with a client when they have me do their estate planning. It takes a little over two hours for me to interview my client and ascertain what they really want. I feel like they deserve that much of my time. Then it takes me about 3 hours to prepare everything. Then there is another two hour meeting with my client to “deliver” the documents and educate the client on how to “use” the documents. The secret tip is you have to use the documents. They aren’t just documents that you file in a safe deposit box and the family retrieves them after you die.
Lots of people that have an attorney do their estate planning never see the attorney. Their insurance agent “collects” all the information and gives it to the attorney. The attorney prepares the documents, and then the insurance agent delivers them back to the client. Those people get the lowest common denominator documents.
BASIC ESTATE PLANNING
A secret tip that nobody ever discloses is estate planning is a big deal. Everybody wants things fast and simple. The internet pitch for estate planning and the insurance pitch for estate planning are designed to convince you how fast and easy it is. Free estate planning tips abounds. Fast and easy gets you the lowest common denominator stuff. It is a lot better than nothing, but it probably isn’t what you really want.
When you get your parents’ estate or when your kids get your estate, that transfer of wealth will be the biggest financial transaction the family will ever handle. It deserves more than ten questions on a web site or an insurance dude running between you and the supposed attorney. (It’s actually a paralegal in the back room at the attorney’s office.)
DO IT YOURSELF ESTATE PLANNING
You are deciding what to do with the assets you have worked your whole life to build up. Isn’t it worth a couple of hours to see what all your options are? Protecting Your Financial Future will clearly give you all of your options. The Six Estate Planning Mistakes Videos will point out some of the common traps. These are traps people end up in, whether or not they have an attorney do their estate planning. Watch them. It’s free.
Your estate plan shouldn’t just be a will that passes property to your heirs. It shouldn’t just be a living trust with a pour over will. It should be a plan that protects your assets from creditors, lawsuits, identity thieves, the IRS, and all of the legal sharks. There are two parts to an estate plan; the “while you are alive part” and the “after you are dead part.”
Financial planning isn’t estate preservation. There’s a secret tip. Your financial planner, stock broker dude and your insurance guy don’t give a **** about your estate planning and asset protection. They are interested in one thing – their commission. About twenty years ago the financial planners and insurance agents became “estate planners.” They very aggressively recommended living trusts.
Living trusts are great. They are a core element of your estate planning. However, that’s not why your financial planner and insurance agent recommended the trust. The dirty secret is, when you do a living trust all of your assets need to be inventoried and “put into the trust.”
That gives the financial planner and insurance guy an opportunity to see your full financial body. You have to open the kimono and let them drool over your financial physique. Once they see what your finances are, then they can tell you that you are stupid and should be using their financial products. Their products probably aren’t any better than what you currently have, but they will make a great commission. I have even seen financial planners and insurance agents pay for the trust, so they can peek inside your kimono.
You’ve got to see a bigger picture than a trust and a will. You need to take some time and see what your options are and what needs to be done. If you walk in off the street and say, “Hi Mr. Attorney. Here I am set me up.” you’ll get exactly what you asked for. He will set you up.