Jun 18, 2017

Posted in Blog - "Altman Speaks"

The Gift for the Man Who Has Everything – Take Time this Father’s Day Weekend to Discuss Estate Planning

The Gift for the Man Who Has Everything – Take Time this Father’s Day Weekend to Discuss Estate Planning

Breakfast in bed, a round of golf, a new tie…estate planning?!?!  It may seem like an awkward topic for a Father’s Day, but considering how busy people are, it’s easy for important conversations to fall by the wayside. These days, people often communicate with family members more online than they do by phone or in person.  Celebratory occassions like Father’s Day present the opportunity to press pause and have more meaningful conversations.

Before jumping into the conversation, take some time to prepare by considering what your Dad’s estate planning personality might be:

Dad, The Know-It-All – Often, people don’t believe they have enough assets to justify estate planning. They perceive it as something that only the Trumps and Rockefellers of the world need to address. Today, with federal and state exemption rates in the multi-millions and rising, only .5% of Americans will be subject to estate tax. What this means is that planning has less to do with the amount of assets a person leaves behind and more about to whom, when and how they want them distributed. If your Dad thinks he doesn’t need an estate plan, ask him if he wants decisions about his estate and assets to be decided on by a court…

Dad, The Pennysaver – Some people don’t want to invest money in planning or they think they can cut corners by doing it themselves.  If cost is the predominant factor preventing your father from planning, ask him to consider this:

  1. Not planning could wind up costing you and your heirs significantly more money in court fees and/or taxes, more than offsetting what it would have cost you to plan.
  2. Mistakes are costly and often irreversible. Judges will not care what your wife or your kids claim you would have wanted or may have intended. Sans a legal document, they will defer to the law. Period.
  3. Lack of planning could be the difference between life and death. Do you want emergency decisions regarding your health to be made by someone you trust or by someone a court appoints? These are serious considerations with serious consequences. It is not the time to cut corners or play estate lawyer for the day.
  4. Buying a sweater online is one thing, but downloading a will from the internet is another.  Drafting legal documents yourself is risky business and the stakes are too high.  By the time mistakes are discovered, it could be too late.  Why chance your family’s future to an online template?  Hire an experienced estate planning attorney to assist you.

Dad, The Man of Steel – Quite simply, some people don’t want to think about their mortality. It’s uncomfortable for some to imagine, much less discuss, so they put it on the back burner or avoid it altogether.

It is important for people to consider, however, the emotional toll that failing to plan causes families. It leaves critical questions unanswered in the event that you become mentally or physically incapacitated:

  1. Who will make medical and financial decisions for you?
  2. Who will care for your children?
  3. Who will run your business?

I have seen the closest of families torn apart over a failure to address these decisions – all while the person is still alive!  That doesn’t take into account the confusion and turmoil caused over assets when a person dies. If your father is procrastinating because he doesn’t want to think about sickness or death, ask him to consider whether avoiding paperwork is worth the pain it could cause your family later?

Dad, The Optimist – While the above factors are contributors as well, many people delay estate planning because they think they have plenty of time. Some middle-aged men still think of themselves as a spry 21 year old.  They feel healthy and simply don’t anticipate the need to do estate planning just yet. Most of us aren’t expecting to die tomorrow, but the reality is that even a healthy, young adult can be taken suddenly by an accident, illness or random act of violence. Planning for such a possibility is the responsible thing to do.

Dad, Mr. Fix-It – Your father may already have done some estate planning, but does he know that it needs to be reviewed at least every four years or immediately if any of the following events occur?

  • A change in marital status
  • The birth of a child
  • A change in your state of residence
  • A significant change in the value or character of your assets
  • A change in intended beneficiaries
  • The death of a beneficiary
  • The death of a guardian, trustee, or personal representative named in your will
  • A change in tax laws affecting federal or state estate tax deductions and calculations
  • A change in privacy laws or other laws that affect the access to medical and financial information

The Bottom Line

Estate planning has evolved greatly over the years. I want fathers to know that today’s planning is about much more than assets or taxes. It’s not just something that the ultra-wealthy or older generations need to be concerned with. It’s not only about your wishes upon death, but about critical choices impacting your health, family, money and business while you’re alive. Estate planning is a process, not a product – something that will grow and change along with you for years to come. And, finally, it is not something that you can afford to put off until tomorrow…

– Gary Altman, Esq.


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