Early in my career, a large part of my work had to do with life insurance. A lot of the sales people I worked with said that an obstacle they continually dealt with was the idea that life insurance relates to people dying and people generally don’t like to talk about death, especially their own. I come up against that idea a lot in my law practice as an estate planning attorney as well.
My practice is almost exclusively devoted to estate planning and probate. Estate planning hopefully deals with matters prior to death but face it, probate only comes up after someone has passed.
So how do I get around it? the discomfort, the squeamishness, the awkward sense that no one willingly discusses these things?
I teach two main ideas. First, as the title of this article says, estate planning has a lot more to do with life than death. Second, we must have an attitude of value about our lives and living, rather than a sense of fear of the unknown and our own deaths. We’ll take a look at this attitude of value in a future post.
Estate planning is about life. Death is about a single moment in time. As we live, people (family, friends, co-workers) come and go. We accumulate experiences through family, friends, school, and work. As we grow older, we appreciate family and friends we’ve loved and maybe lost, we gain work experience, accumulate assets, and begin to formulate ideas about the meaning that our lives might have. What’s it all for? Who is it all for? What difference will our life or our life’s work have on our family? our profession? or our community?
We spend our lives creating. As adults, we create our families, careers, and hobbies. We make plans, achieve goals, and then make more plans. Estate planning is simply one more project. When we make plans in other areas of our lives, we set a goal and then make a plan to accomplish the goal. Estate planning is pretty much the same thing. We make plans so that when some triggering event occurs, these other things come into play. So it goes with estate planning. If a triggering event is death, then these other things come into play. It is entirely possible to create an estate plan through which your assets are transferred in such a way that these questions we ask about value, legacy, and impact are answered. These answers support people, projects, and community that matter to you.