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Estate Planning 101: Why Life’s Toughest Moments Should Come With Instructions

- Greg Aler

When your kids or grandkids get a new set of LEGOS, it always comes with instructions. Same with that assemble-it-yourself furniture from the big-box retailer (or at least, we hope it comes with intelligible instructions). But when it comes to living life, there are no instructions, even when we need them the most.


As an attorney, I’m often asked to explain what estate planning is. And while I could rattle off a bunch of terms like probate, taxes, powers of attorney, wills and trusts, that doesn’t tell you what estate planning really is. Estate planning is creating the instructions we and our families desperately need for some of life’s toughest moments. Just like when the LEGO tower gets knocked over, or the assemble-it-yourself furniture isn’t coming together the way it should, we need something to reference that tells us what to do. That’s what estate planning is. When life happens, or when things go wrong, an estate plan provides direction for your loved ones.


Let’s look at some real-life examples of what an estate plan would do. If you have minor children, an estate plan would give the courts specific direction on who should care for your kids and how they would be supported if, God forbid, both parents were killed in an accident.


What about later on in life? Let’s say you receive a medical diagnosis with an unfavorable prognosis or develop cognitive issues and can no longer care for yourself. Your estate plan would provide guidance on who should make your healthcare decisions and financial decisions. Having that information readily available is important so your family and friends can navigate the situation in the manner you would have wanted.


I know these examples aren’t comfortable to imagine, but I bring them up to illustrate that life is unexpected. As Benjamin Franklin said, “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” We’re all going to experience both. And that’s precisely why we all need an estate plan—not just the wealthy or the elderly. When you pass away, your estate plan will guide whomever you appoint so they don’t have to make guesses in a stressful, terrible situation.


Which brings me to my final point: an estate plan provides more than just instructions; it also provides the peace of mind that your loved ones will know exactly what you’d want them to do next. It alleviates the pressure to interpret your wishes and reduces or eliminates frustration and confusion. We all know how we feel when the instructions are missing from the LEGO box, or the directions for the furniture assembly appear to be in another language. It’s miserable. And that’s just trying to put together stuff, not someone’s life. That’s why an estate plan is more than just a set of documents. When life is in pieces, an estate plan is what helps your loved ones put it all back together.


Ready to build your estate plan? We’ll make it easy to put the pieces together. Schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our attorneys. Call us at 614-612-1115.


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Finally, if you’re just joining us, don’t forget to check out the rest of our Estate Planning 101 series.

Estate Planning 101: Save the Date! Here’s When to Create or Update an Estate Plan

Estate Planning 101: Why a Trust Makes Sense