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A New Age for Estate Planning-Is it Time for a Change?

If you are a golf member of Seville, you've had the privilege and pleasure of playing our great course many, many times. Have you ever noticed that each time you play, it seems to be the first time? Club selection is not always the same: wind conditions, humidity, temperature and other factors tend to affect your club selection. Estate planning can have the same similarities: let me explain.

They say, the only thing you can count on in life is change (well, and dying, unfortunately). Many times that which should and could feel familiar has a radically different feel. Not unlike a round of golf, things change in your life that will necessitate a change in your estate planning. Remember- if you have a dollar, you have an estate. So, eventually, when you are gone for good, there has to be a plan as to what happens to your stuff. A properly planned and executed estate plan instructs those you leave behind as to what you would like to happen to your belongings, and perhaps, a plan to take care of those you leave behind. Not having a plan in places leave quite a mess for your family to sort through, and it's important to remember that anybody can lay claim to your things if you have not left specific instructions. They may not get anything but, it could lead to a long and drawn out, not to mention horrible and painful experience. Going back to the change theory- things change. Marriage, divorce, births of grandchildren, desire to benefit charities, caring for an aging parent or disabled spouse or child... the list goes on and on. The list also changes through time, and it's imperative that you change your plan with it. We recommend that every 3 years or so you drag out your legal documents- will, trusts, powers of attorney, living will, health care proxy or other documents, and review them for accuracy and changes. Do they still comport with your wishes, and has anything changed? Do you have new grandchild? Has anyone in the plan passed, or were there any health changes that need to be addressed and cared for? Do you have a desire to take someone out of the plan? Different life circumstances sometimes necessitate change.

The use of trusts can be a vital part of ones' estate plan. You can use a chunk of money to care for an aging parent with the principal eventually going to another family member, utilizing a block of funds to benefit two generations of people. Want to make sure someone is clearly left out? It's not advisable to just leave them out of your will- specific language should be used to make sure they are not construed as just being forgotten. You may have a child who had fallen into a bad way or bad behavior- you can leave assets to them but just out of their reach for safety and for their own good. Create a scholarship legacy at your house of worship or alma-mater- all possible with the proper planning. More so, when you dust off the documents for review every few years, you can change or amend your desire to benefit certain people, or change your mind. Most decisions are revocable-meaning they can be changed. Rarely do we make irrevocable decisions, but it is done. These decisions can't be changed- you're stuck with your initial choice, so choose carefully with the advice and consultation of your trusted advisors.

Don't take your estate planning lightly. You've worked hard all your life to accumulate your wealth- it would be foolhardy to not pay attention to proper planning. Each family I meet with has different wants and needs: be free and open when you share with your trusted professional your goals and desires as to how you would like to see your estate set up. There are a vast number of tools available to be utilized to accomplish your desired needs far beyond your imagination. Remember: you don't always reach for your 7 iron on the same hole from the same distance: you evaluate the situation carefully before you reach into your bag to make sure you select the right club for the right shot. The same can be said for your estate planning: make sure to include all the issues surrounding your estate planning tool before taking it out of the bag. The difference can be staggering for the outcome and for those you leave behind. Don't just automatically grab for a familiar club- you may find yourself woefully short of the green and your goal. Welcome to Spring... See you on the tee!

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