For months — probably years — now, I have been writing articles about understanding the technicality and legality of estate planning. I have been expressing the importance of making sure that everyone put in place their plan for intergenerational wealth building. However, as I was expressing my great love for the work that I do to a dear friend, he shared this pearl of wisdom: “Estate planning is really about the abundant love that you have.”
Truly it is all about the love. It’s the love that compels you to make sacrifices for your family. It’s the love that compels you to provide for your family. It’s the love that compels you to protect your family. To many of us, family is not solely defined by blood or legal relationship such as marriage. Family, in this setting, is defined as the people whom you cherish and cherish you.
I am always honored when I have the privilege to support an individual or family to create a plan that protects their loved ones emotionally and financially. I am honored when people share with me their concerns and their desires to create a strategy to protect their values and honor their community institutions, such as churches, alma maters and other beloved entities through charitable giving.
What I have come to appreciate is that when people take the steps to make a strategic plan in an effort to prepare their family and to position them for the future, it is because they love them. They love them with an eye for the future. They love them with an eye for what can be. They love them with a hope for the greatest possibilities. We know that we can’t take away the grief or the feeling of loss — but the love that we have for the people in our lives can compel us to do what isn’t easy.
Estate planning is so much more than creating documents. It is a strategic plan put in place to support the ones you love to make decisions when you are no longer able. It is a strategy to guide financial resources in a way that is in the best interest of those you love. It is a way to support those who are unable to support themselves financially.
I have seen love in action as a mom strategically plans how to show her two sons her legacy of love by putting her house in a trust and giving the brick and mortar to one who has no other place to live and the equity to another who needs the money. I have seen the legacy of love in practice when a primary residence is put into a trust and an educational foundation is created for the grandchildren from the income. I have seen the legacy of love evidenced in a blended family by a husband putting the principal residence in trust for the benefit of the second wife to continue to live there during her lifetime but then transferring to the children after she passes or remarries. Love looks different in different situations. There is no cookie-cutter approach for demonstrations of love, but we know that it indeed requires sacrifice.
Strategic planning isn’t easy, but love never is.
Aimee Griffin is an attorney with the Griffin Firm in D.C.