Posted by: The Life and Legacy Planning Group
Many people put their estate plan on their to-do list as a one-time project: “Create estate plan” or “Meeting with lawyer 10:30 a.m. Thursday for estate plan.” And once the plan has been initially designed and drafted, they treat it as a “bucket list” item and check it off their list. The estate plan, to them, is a set of documents that, once drafted, can be ignored and forgotten.
Thinking of your estate plan as a single project or task to complete and move off your list is a common approach – but it’s also an approach that can land you in considerable hot water. Here’s why it’s essential to view your estate plan as a process, rather than a project.
Process vs. Project: What’s the Difference?
A project that takes several steps to complete – like an estate plan – can seem like it’s a “process” already. First, I need to call the lawyer. Then, I need to make time to attend the appointment. Before that, I need to get together these documents….
In fact, a project doesn’t become a process simply because it takes time and effort to complete. Here are some of the key differences between a project and a process.
- Seeks to create something new or implement a single, concrete change.
- Requires leadership to plan and execute.
- Can have its plans or goals changed on short notice.
- Creates value by returning to the same task many times.
- Requires management to ensure the process is consistent and produces expected results.
- Can be changed only by launching a project with a goal to change the process.
Estate Planning as Process
When you’re creating a new estate plan, it’s natural to see that plan as a project. You’re creating something new when you work with a team to implement your plan. You create a positive change in your life by having an estate plan from not having one. And, you’re right. Setting up a trust or implementing your first estate plan certainly qualifies as a project.
But the goal of the estate planning “project” should transition into an estate planning process by which you check, evaluate, and update your will, trust, and other legal documents regularly – perhaps annually, but certainly every 3 to 5 years. If you wait until you hit a major life milestone, like the birth of child or grandchild, death of family member, divorce, marriage, significant change in assets or income, or the like, you’re likely to ignore their impact upon your estate plan. In addition, you may never become aware of the changes in state and federal law, including tax laws, that can impact your plan. In today’s turbulent times, those changes are even more likely than changes in your personal and financial situation.
When your estate planning is viewed as a lifelong process, your plan is much more likely to serve your family’s needs, whatever they may be, when the time comes, simply because you’ve been managing it proactively. You will be addressing every change as it occurs, rather than hoping that you can react at some point in the future, and that it won’t be too late.
We can help you get started with estate planning and are here to guide you along the entire process. Let us become your ally in managing the process and in ensuring that you and your family gain maximum value from returning to it on a proper schedule.