3 Approaches for More Meaningful Estate Planning

By Mary Louden, JD, LLM | Feb 14, 2022 |

An estate plan lives at the intersection of two complicated topics: money and death.

The U.S. life expectancy in 1960 was 69.8 years. Today, it’s 78.8 years. We have more opportunity and time than ever to create vibrant, productive, fulfilling lives. When the time is right to sit down and focus on your estate plan, you don’t have to go at it alone.

Estate planning is more than just drafting a will. For one thing, it’s about leaving a legacy. Beyond that, it’s knowing your values, your intentions, and your vision for the future.

Aim for clarity, not complications.

If you’re like most investors, creating a plan can be a work of art. You pepper your spreadsheets with complex formulas, automatic filtering and formatting, and explore an expanse of tabs and charts each with their own powerful benefits. It’s at once sophisticated and beautiful, complex and (more than likely) difficult for others to follow.

Confucius had it right: “Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

In terms of an estate plan, the specific can quickly spiral into complicated.

“The more rigid the plan, the more issues can come out on the back end,” said Mary Louden, JD, LLM, director of Brighton Jones estate planning. “Minimizing issues takes striking a balance to achieve both flexibility and clarity—to make plans clear without making plans rigid.”

Discuss with a trusted advisor your plans: how much you want to give, timing of the gifts, and the impact you want for others. Here, zeroing in on high-level priorities can help keep you and your team focused on the end goal during the planning process.

Discuss your intentions with your loved ones.

It’s common for individuals to avoid discussing inheritance plans with their beneficiaries. However, it’s a necessary step for planning a meaningful path forward.

The hope is that by communicating your vision, you help your beneficiaries become stewards of wealth and of your vision. For some, that may involve creating opportunities for your children to spend time together at the family getaway. For others, it may involve creating impactful change with endowments or donor-advised funds to support the causes and organizations you care about most.

Family dynamics vary, which is why having open, honest conversations can help you stay in control while reducing conflict among heirs. Consider leveraging a family meeting to disclose information about your estate plans to your adult children, and create space for them to process, react, and respond to what they hear.

It’s important to communicate before things come to pass so heirs understand the vehicles and mechanism, and aren’t surprised by your plans. A lot of times parents are the glue holding that sibling relationship together. This is the time to be flexible and prepared without over mandating.

A support team can promote harmony

Sometimes the best gift you can give your family is naming a third-party fiduciary or trustee—an umpire—to help carry out your wishes. In situations where impartiality is important to find the best results for everyone, this person can add power and value to your legacy by fielding and absorbing any issues that may arise.

Not only can your estate planning team help you identify your goals and objectives, it can help you organize your financial affairs and documents, communicate your intentions, and carry out how you want your assets distributed. One of the most important factors of working with a robust support team is exploring strategies for tax consequences and intergenerational transfers.

Understanding how to align your wealth with your passions is essential to how Brighton Jones works. Because estate planning is deeply personal, we start with a conversation about what’s important to you, and then build a strategy to help you create a legacy with impact.

What to Know and How to Get Started

Estate Planning 101

Putting an estate plan in place is an investment of time and money, but is well worth it to ensure that one’s wishes are carried out.

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