Unless you were born into an über-rich family (and sometimes even then), your parents probably never discussed estate planning when you were growing up and didn’t have any kind of relationship with a personal lawyer (at least not one who was discussed with fondness).
It’s not a surprise. Seventy percent of people die without a will. Why would you need to take action now, when you’re so young?
Because you are financially smarter than your parents and you care more about the people you’d leave behind than the 70% who die leaving their loved ones in the lurch.
You may be young (or young at heart), but you likely have more far more wealth than your folks already. You certainly have bigger dreams. And there’s a good chance you have kids.
It’s not your age that matters when it comes to planning. Your vision and your family circumstances determine whether you need to plan and when to start.
Caring for your children
Regardless of how much money you have in the bank, if you have kids at home, you want to be the one who decides who will take care of your kids in the short-term and who would raise them for the long-term, if you were in an accident. You definitely don’t want to leave that decision up to a Court.
Choosing who will take care of your kids and legally documenting your decisions is estate planning. If you have kids, you need it.
Giving your family access to your finances
If you have money in the bank (here in California more than $100,000) or own any real property, you will want your family to easily access that money if anything happens to you. The State has a plan for your money, but it’s one that will make life difficult for your loved ones. Under the State’s plan, your family will have to deal with the Court system, not have complete control of your assets for 12-16 months, and they’ll pay a load of unnecessary expenses that you could have spared them if you had planned ahead.
You definitely don’t want to leave the people you love with a mess because you didn’t take care of your personal business matters. Giving your loved ones easy access to your money if you are in an accident is estate planning. If you have money in the bank or own even one piece of real estate, you need it.
Protecting your business and your work for your family
If you have a big vision for your future, you want to set up your business in such a way that it can never be taken from you if you get divorced or sued and when you die, your family won’t lose half of it to the government. There are ways to protect what you’re building and it’s a lot easier to put in place when your company isn’t worth much, like when you’re just starting out in your 30s.
Showing the universe you’re serious about your business and setting it up so that it grows protected for your family is estate planning. If you have a big vision for your future, you need it.
Passing on your values
Last, if you want to pass on much more than just your financial wealth and leave the world a better place, you need to set forth the intention to do that and then take action steps throughout your lifetime to capture the intangible assets that are most often lost when someone dies, like your intellectual, spiritual and human assets. It’s about who you are and what’s important to you.
Creating a structure and plan for passing on your values, insights, stories and experience is estate planning. If you want to leave the world a better place, you need it.
What do the old rich guys know that you should know too?
The most important thing to know is that estate planning is not a do-it-yourself process.
Sure, you can prepare your own will, trust or health care directive, but real estate planning (what I call Family Wealth Planning) is about far more than documents. It’s about making the very best decisions for yourself and the people you love most so you can leave the world a better place. And that kind of estate planning cannot be done without the guidance of a trusted personal lawyer who will be there for you throughout your lifetime and for your loved ones after you are gone.
Think about the old rich guys – the guys whose family wealth has grown with each generation –Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford to name a few. They all had personal lawyers advising them and their families after they were gone and long before they amassed their wealth. Because of these relationships, they left long-lasting legacies that improve the world.
Contrast that with rich guys like Joe Robbie, Powel Crosley, Jr., and Cornelius Vanderbilt who were once the wealthiest men in America and whose fortunes have been almost entirely dissipated to estate taxes, lawsuits, divorces and general affluenza.
Learn from the old rich guys who did it right. Show the universe you are serious about your business by getting control of your financial future. Leave your family with a legacy of true family wealth. If you want to leave the world a better place, even on a small scale, now is the time for you to begin planning your estate.