I’m always encouraged when I see non-legal publications recognize estate planning as critically important for all families and individuals.  I recently ran across just such an article in USA Today, entitled “12 Smart Ways to Spend $1,200 in 2012.”

The article is a relatively short, easy read, so I won’t recap it here – I will just point out a few of my observations.  The first observation is this: they have estate planning WAY too low on the list!  #12 . . . the last one . . . seriously?!  They put a new computer and an e-reader higher on the list than estate planning.  You have to be kidding me!  I appreciate that they included it on the list, but what does it say to caring families and individuals to have it listed last?  It’s already something that many families put off for any number of reasons and ultimately don’t have in place (or don’t have an updated one in place) when it’s needed most.  Telling people that a new computer, e-readers, and supporting a political candidate are more important than estate planning is a sad commentary on something that can “make or break” families in many cases.

Second comment – I applaud them for recognizing and recommending that everyone needs an estate plan and needs one long before retirement.  Estate planning is often misconstrued as being only for the “wealthy” (whatever that means).  I can assure you “estate” is not meant to refer to a stately colonial mansion sitting atop rolling green hills surrounded by white fencing and horses galloping around.  Everyone has an “estate.”  It is simply everything you own (including life insurance!).  And the “planning” refers not just to the “estate,” but to caring for you while you are around (through financial and healthcare powers of attorney) and your loved ones or charities after your passing.  We never know when something will happen to us, so having a comprehensive estate plan in place helps many families have added peace of mind.

Finally, I applaud them for recognizing that a great, comprehensive estate plan is an investment, not a “cost.”  They support that when they state that $1,200 can “go a long way.”  Note that they don’t say it gets you all the way there.  Sure, you can get a set of standard documents and very little listening and counsel for that amount.  But many truly caring families realize that who they are is just as important (if not more important) than what they have, and that capturing their values, insights, stories and experiences for future generations is worth more than $1,200.

So, how about you?  Why wouldn’t you make 2012 the year that you take this critical step to securing your family’s future and giving yourself some added peace of mind?  Anyone can say “I’ll get around to it.”  It’s the truly caring families that make estate and legacy planning a priority, realizing that procrastination may leave their children and other loved ones in an unthinkable situation.  So give us a call at 616-827-7596 to “get the ball rolling” on a New Year’s resolution to put a caring plan in place for your family.

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.