What my father’s death taught me about Estate Planning


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What is Estate Planning

We undastand now the term Estate Planning which simply means the process of arranging for an orderly transfer of your assets to the people you want to receive them, it involves identifying who you want to give your assets to and when, either in your life time or at death; but sometimes done after death).

 Lessons leant from the death of a father

When a loved one passes often those left behind are left wondering, “What do I do now?” or “How am I going to manage without him/her?”  Sometimes the shock is so great that it takes days, weeks or months to come up for air.  But eventually, those who handle the situation most resourcefully use the setback as an experience to be able to help others.

Now a story was shared buy a writer who expresses his knowledge on how he had leant as a result of the death of the father and at such serving as guidline in our modern days.

Yesterday was the ten-year anniversary of my father’s death.  As many know, he passed away and for three years my brother and I dealt with complications shutting down his practice, and trying to close out the estate through what turned out to be an expensive and lengthy probate process. Dad had done everything most people would have advised him to do in setting up his estate plan. He worked with one of the most prominent attorneys to craft his documents, creating a well thought out blueprint for what should happen upon his demise.  He set up revocable trusts and irrevocable life insurance trusts, buying insurance to provide liquidity and help pay potential estate taxes, named executors, trustees etc. But he made many mistakes along the way that come about all too often when people stop short of implementing well thought out estate plans.  One thing my father always drilled into my head is that it is OK to make mistakes.  Those who reach the highest peaks do so because they have failed more than most anyone else. I like to think my brother and I have learned from my father’s mistakes in this case, but I feel it is even more important to help others learn from some of these lessons.


1. Not getting off the starting line.

All too often people do not want to think about what should happen if they meet their demise.  It seems people become more motivated after a loved one passes away, especially when they are dealing with complications.  Recently a long time client’s father passed away and he was detailing issues related to probating the estate and the amount of stress it was causing him.

2. Failure to get spouses involved and engaged in the process

My father unfortunately did not engage my step mother in the planning process prior to or during the period he was getting his estate documents drafted.  She did not fully understand or have confidence in what he was trying to do to protect both my brother and myself as well as her two boys.  For this reason trusts were not funded and the bulk of the estate was open to creditor’s allowing a succession of entities and unrelated individuals to claim against the estate.

3. Choosing the cheapest option rather than the best option

A hand written will in a sock drawer is better than nothing and a will downloaded from the internet and modified is probably a better solution than the former.  Even though it may prove a bit more costly to have an experienced attorney draft your documents, he or she has likely seen and dealt with many issues you may not even consider.  If they are detail oriented, experienced and focused on protecting clients from pitfalls before they happen, this is best.  Dealing with the fallout of inadequate estate planning or an improperly implemented plan can be lucrative for an attorney and very costly for the loved ones of the deceased.

4. Failure to consider what if any trusts might be necessary

Wills, powers of attorney for financial and health purposes, living wills and letters of instruction are all commonly provided with basic estate planning and often all that is needed. 

5. Failure to choose qualified trustees, executors and guardians

We have seen situations where executors and beneficiaries take so long to resolve estate issues that the beneficiaries of the deceased pass away before the estate is finalized. This causes the probate process to involve two estates and compounded complications. Other executors and trustees find ways to miss-appropriate funds and shirk their fiduciary duties, benefiting themselves rather than the intended beneficiaries.

Get Help

If you would like to learn more about the lessons from the demise in estate planning,  please contact any of our estate planning attorneys today.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The content of this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments. No attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this blog or contacting Morgan Legal Group.

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