For some that do not yet have an Estate Plan and for those that do, Estate Planning can be daunting and very hard to understand. How do I know? Because when I ask someone to explain what they have put together they either can’t describe it or they give a very generic answer that does not begin to explain the details of the plan. Why is that?
My first answer may offend some, but it is, for the most part, true: Attorneys. We all joke about attorneys and for some of us we have many attorneys to contend with, but it is not really the attorneys themselves who are the problem (unless they are just out for money which does exist). The real issue is that attorneys are trained to make sure they cover every contingency and every potential risk. For that I am grateful. But why make it so hard to understand?
The legalese is pretty intimidating, and one attorney told me the reason for this is to justify their fees. I don’t know if that is true, but does it HAVE be written in all of that legalese or can an attorney write it in simple language? I think they can and should. The other question is can they make all the trusts, wills, partnerships and all the other instruments that they use easier to decipher and figure out, again, in simple language? I think they can. But the real question is it the lawyers fault or is it the client’s fault for asking them to do something that they were never trained to do: plan and spend time discussing values, virtues, goals and the many issues that families have?
Most families need to meet and plan their estate, and more specifically their legacy plan, with a trained and sophisticated planner who has experience, education and a talent for that area of expertise. My specialty is Christian Family Legacy planning so I meet with Christians and not only talk about planning from a financial perspective but help them integrate what the Bible says about our possessions, marriage, children and finances. If you are not a Christian and have no interest in integrating what God has to say about these things, then you would most likely need to find someone who has unique qualifications to deal with your plan in a way that fits your values and faith.
Whoever the planner is they need to follow specific steps in order to create a plan that the family understands, knows what and why they have created it, and what it does for them. Here five steps to accomplish that:
1.Vision: the planner guides you on a thoughtful reflective process that helps you create a vision statement that orients your family legacy and helps you create goals that are meaningful and reflect your vision. First family meeting
2.Clarify: the planner helps you gather all legal and financial information with the help of your trusted advisors to create an analysis that clarifies where you are now and how well you are currently satisfying your new objectives and goals.
3. Focus: the planner creates a plan that aligns your vision and your goals with your wealth to maximize the impact of reduced taxes and is aligned with your values. All advisors are involved in this phase of the plan. Second family meeting
4. Implement: the planner and team oversee the execution of all legal documents, coordinate the transfer of various assets and guides advisors to acquire any needed financial products or services. Weekly emails to keep you posted on results.
5. Impact: this may be a phase that does not show up on most planner’s process as it involves charity. As a Christian advisor, it shows up in every plan that I do. The planner creates a giving plan that helps organize and account for all the gifts that have been prescribed in the plan. He also helps with family meetings and how to integrate a giving attitude in everyone in the family.
Without these steps, the process of Estate Planning is typically legal, confusing and not necessarily representative of your values or relevant to your goals and heart. It takes some time to do it this way, I admit, but if you want your legacy for your family to matter, It should!
Download The Master’s Plan!
This is a book about transforming your family legacy – both today and in generations to come. It is for Christian families who want to eliminate estate and capital gains taxes, maintain their current lifestyle, pass on an appropriate inheritance to their heirs, maximize giving to worthy ministries, create healthier family relationships and leave a lasting legacy to impact God’s kingdom.
By Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning
Joe believes that stronger families are the vehicle God uses to bring about significant impact for His Kingdom.