As estate planning attorneys, our goal is to help clients achieve theirs.
Last week, I spent two days at the Carter Center, where we on its Planned Giving Advisory Council explored several issues relating to estate planning and planned giving.
During our conversations and presentations, it became clear that clients often do not express their true estate planning wishes until an experienced estate planning attorney helps draw out those wishes.
When clients are asked where they want to leave their assets, their first reaction is often to leave everything to their next-of-kin outright. When clients are asked instead about goals, a different answer might be the result.
Let’s take an example. John and Joan are a couple who have no children and are dedicated to the preservation of the environment. They have several nephews and nieces whom they love and whose parents are quite successful. If you simply ask them, “How do you want to leave your assets,” the answer will likely be “outright to our nephews and nieces.” However, if you explore their life goals, such as preservation of the environment and their desire to provide a little extra to their nephews and nieces, you may help the client achieve an estate plan which more closely approximates their true wishes. In this case, a Charitable Remainder Trust, with payments to the nephews and nieces for the first 10 years after the death of the survivor of the clients, with a remainder to a basket of environmental charities, might provide a plan about which the clients can be excited. Their deaths will mean the continuation of their lifelong work in preserving the environment, while giving something to their nephews and nieces, as well.
As estate planning attorneys and counselors, we can help clients achieve their goals. Sometimes those goals are best achieved by sending assets outright to the next-of-kin.
However, many times that is not the best way to achieve their goals. Often, their goals might include providing asset protection, divorce protection, or tax minimization for their beneficiaries, which might suggest keeping those assets in trust. Or, their goals might include advancing charitable goals. We can help clients achieve their true goals because we know the universe of tools available to them and we can help educate them on how these tools might help them achieve their true goals.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555