A New Vocabulary for “Estate” Planning

Those of my clients and peers who’ve heard me expound on this, bear with me…words matter!  They can incentivize or disincentivize our behaviors.  Case in point “everyone needs an estate plan.”

Well, chances are I’ve just turned at least 45% of you off and you’ve moved onto the next post.  My goal is to get us thinking about the “plan” part and replace the word “estate” with the word “contingency” – everyone needs a contingency plan…hmm, that sounds more likely.

Well, we can’t argue with that…we have them for lots of areas in our lives…certainly we have entire departments at our places of work dedicated to contingency planning – who remembers Y2K?

What is a “Personal or Family Contingency Plan?”   It’s a set of documents that puts instructions in place for:

  • Documenting the type of care you prefer to receive should you become ill or incapacitated, including any life-prolonging medical care you do or do not wish to receive.
  • Empowering an “agent” to carry out any legal and/or financial decisions that have to be made on your behalf during your lifetime if you are unable to act on your own behalf. 
  • Naming guardians for minor children.
  • Naming the family members, loved ones, and organizations you wish to receive your property following your death.
  • Naming your executor and/or trustee – the individual(s) or institution you appoint to act as your proxy in settling your estate and distributing your property.

A Contingency Plan does not have an asset minimum…it’s about putting people and processes in place to help you take care of you, your family, and your pets if you are unable to do so and to distribute your “stuff,” in the way you want to after you’ve gone.

This Forbes article – “4 Estate Planning Myths That Refuse to Die,” delves into these topics in more detail.

Let’s make 2019 the year to get your Personal or Family Contingency Plan in place!