All too often, estate planning is viewed as a transaction: a will, a living trust, powers of attorney, etc. But the best planning happens when the professional can get to know the client on a deeper and more personal level, to uncover hopes, dreams and aspirations. It becomes more about family and values, and it becomes a process instead of a transaction.
This process begins with having a plan for our lives. There is a certain power in planning. When plans are carefully thought through and written out, they tend to come true. A plan can also serve as a guide, helping to align our deepest values, beliefs and goals with our financial resources so we can realize our dreams. Having a plan allows us to live richer, fuller lives—personally, professionally, financially and spiritually.
How to Formulate a Life Plan
1. Think broadly and deeply about what matters most to you. If you had all the money you needed, what would you do with it? If you had only five or ten years to live, how would you live them? If you learned you have 24 hours left to live, what did you miss?
2. Take this vision, sweep away any doubts, and craft your ideal life in as much detail as possible. This can energize you to achieve your vision in the shortest time possible. Goals are no longer something to be hoped for “some day,” but can become immediate and vibrant.
3. A thoughtful professional can help you identify obstacles and roadblocks that may be keeping you from achieving your vision. These are sometimes financial, but more often they are internal beliefs.
4. An experienced professional can then recommend the best ways to achieve your goals. Quite often, this professional will put together a team of professionals from different disciplines to make sure all of the needs are being met. The team may include an estate planning attorney, a financial advisor, an insurance advisor, a CPA, a retirement plan advisor, even a planned giving expert.
The right professional for this approach in planning will ask open-ended questions and listen carefully to the answers. The client, on the other hand, will need to be open, honest and willing to make an emotional connection, with both the professional and with him/herself. The two will be building a mutual trust and relationship, one that can last for many years, possibly even into the next generation.
The result of this type of planning is far more valuable than any transaction.