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Value Freedom? Here’s Why an Estate Plan Is Your Declaration of Independence

Ali Katz

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As you celebrate the Fourth of July and all it represents - freedom, independence, and the pursuit of happiness - take pride in the ultimate American liberty: the right to decide your own affairs, even after death or in the event of incapacity. An estate plan, specifically a Life & Legacy Plan, is the way to express your liberty. It’s your personal Declaration of Independence. I know; it sounds weird. How in the world can an estate plan give me freedom?

Here’s how: Creating a Life & Legacy Plan (a unique estate planning process I use in my firm) preserves your self-determination, protects your family, grows your wealth, and defines your legacy on your own terms. Just as the Founding Fathers declared freedom from the British crown over two centuries ago, your Life & Legacy Plan declares your autonomy from the courts, state laws, and conflicting viewpoints that could unravel your final intentions. Read on to find out how.

 

You Have a Plan: It Just May Not Be What You Want

The first thing to know is that you already have a plan for what happens in the event you become incapacitated or when you die. You may not know what that plan is, and you may not like what that plan is! You see, the government has created a plan for you, without your input. Or, you may have already created your own plan, but didn’t really understand the choices you made, haven’t updated it, or may not even own your assets in a way that has them covered by your plan.

When you have a Life & Legacy Plan, you get to override the government’s plan for you with your choices. YOU get to decide exactly how you want your assets collected and distributed - whether that's providing for certain loved ones over others, leaving assets to chosen family members, who aren’t related by blood or marriage, but who have become close kin to you by choice, or donating portions to charitable causes near and dear to your heart. 

With a Life & Legacy Plan in place, you maintain that plan throughout your lifetime, so as your assets change, your life changes, and the law changes, so does your plan. It grows with you, rather than becomes stale and outdated over time. Because you aren’t a stagnant human. You are evolving, changing and likely growing. Your plan needs to evolve, change and grow along with you, otherwise it’s not even worth the paper it’s written on.

 

The Liberation of Making Your Decisions With Eyes Wide Open

Planning for incapacity or death is the equivalent of planning for your best possible life, and for the best possible life of the people you love. It may not have ever been presented to you that way, but think about it - if you accept that you are going to die one day, and you may become incapacitated first, and you want your family and assets to be cared for in a certain way when those things happen, wouldn’t that naturally inform choices you’ll make around the allocation of your resources throughout your life? 

We call this “eyes wide open” decision-making, and it leads to the most optimal use and allocation of your resources throughout your life, and makes things as easy as possible for the people you love, in the event of your incapacity or death. For example, when you consider how you want to be cared for in the event of your incapacity, and document those choices, you can then ensure you have the necessary close personal relationships to deliver on your desires, as well as the required financial means to provide for yourself or the people who will care for you (or your kids). Otherwise, you are just leaving it up to happenstance … or a judge … and we call that “eyes squeezed shut/pretend it’s not going to occur” decision-making, and it’s not responsible, mature or kind to yourself or the people you love.

 

The Power to Choose

The most mature, adult and loving thing you can do for yourself and the people you love is to clarify well in advance how you want to be cared for, if you cannot care for yourself, who should make decisions for you, and how you want those decisions to be made. In addition, it’s critical to provide a roadmap for the people you love, so they know what you have, where it is and how to find it.

Establishing a Life & Legacy Plan does all of that, and it doesn’t matter how much or how little you have because your loved ones will have to deal with it, whether it’s a little or a lot -- and your choices while you are living, healthy and clear empowers them and minimizes their outlay of time, energy and attention they may not have, especially during a time of grief. With a Life & Legacy Plan we help you create, you can also account for special circumstances like children or spouses from previous marriages, loved ones with disabilities, or family members you intentionally want to omit. No more worries about assets getting unfairly split or ending up in the wrong hands.

Finally, holding a family meeting can unite your loved ones around a shared understanding of your intentions rather than driving them apart through conflicts and differing interpretations of your wishes. Your Life & Legacy Plan gives you the power to choose to create more ease for yourself and the people you love. 

 

A Declaration of How You Want to Be Remembered

Your Life & Legacy Plan represents your final declaration of the values and life experiences you'll impart to loved ones and the world at large. Use this opportunity to put your final stamp on how you want your individuality and life's purpose remembered, rather than leaving it up to chance, or leaving a legacy of mess and drama. 

All of our plans include a Life & Legacy recording that guides you to express your deepest hopes, guiding wisdom, and ethical frameworks acquired over decades of successes, struggles, and personal growth. You will share cherished stories, meaningful quotes, and carefully-cultivated philosophies that give your life meaning. The Life & Legacy recording is the most meaningful gift your family will cherish and carry into future generations.

 

So, this Independence Day, make your own personal declaration of freedom by establishing your own comprehensive Life & Legacy Plan. Take pride in exercising your liberties to the fullest by removing all uncertainties over your final affairs and ensuring your true wishes will be honored. 

 

Let Us Be Your Life & Legacy Planning Partner

As a Personal Family Lawyer Firm, Life & Legacy Planning is all we do. We work with you to craft a plan on your terms, taking into account what you want, not what someone else has decided for you. And once you’ve created your plan, you can rest easy knowing your wishes will be honored, your loved ones cared for, and your legacy preserved.