I have been emphasizing the need for flexible estate plans since I first opened my practice.  It seems that most people believe that estate planning is either for the “hear and now” or for the “way down the road.”  If that is your view, your missing out on the “everything in between.”

I recently read this NY Times article, which sheds some light on the importance of a flexible estate plan.  As the article points out, the “certainty” that Congress brought to estate tax planning in late 2010 will only apply for 2011 and 2012.  After that it is anyone’s guess.

I can’t agree more with the part of the article that says “people…need to refocus their estate plans, … toward flexible plans for distribution, protection and management of their assets no matter how Congress tinkers with the tax laws.”  And that is just the estate tax law.  Don’t forget that each state, Michigan included, changes their estate planning laws from time to time too.

This is why I focus on planning for life, not death.  It’s really about who you are and what’s important to you.  How can estate planning pass on who you are?  By structuring your plan in a way that guides and directs your loved ones if something happens to you and that shares your Whole Family Wealth™ with them – not just what you have, but more importantly your values, insights, stories and experiences.

One last thing…note the many advantages of trusts that are stated in the article and how it is not just about tax planning.  My favorite advantage of trusts that they wisely state in the article is “protection against creditors, permitting the beneficiary to continue enjoying benefits from the trust even if bankruptcy were to occur.”

If you already have an estate plan in place, take this opportunity to have it reviewed and updated for flexibility by an attorney who focuses on estate planning.  And if you don’t have an estate plan…why not?  You are leaving your family’s future in the hands of the court system.  Is that what you want?

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and business planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for finances – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate and asset protection planning for  the “experienced” generation, the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses and pet planning.  He takes the “counselor” part of attorney and counselor at law very seriously, and enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients – many of which have become great friends.