Based on some recent conversations, it has become clear to me that there is much confusion about estate planning.  What is it?  What does it mean?  Why do it?  How to do it?  Why work with an attorney?  And many more questions I hear on a regular basis.  So, I’ll be doing a series of blog posts introducing estate planning and its various components.  I don’t know how many posts it will be.   I’m pulling many of the topics from my day-to-day conversations, so I’ll keep the series going as long as there are questions.  If you have questions, please ask! I’ll make sure to work your questions into this series.

So, the first question – what is estate planning?  Wikipedia defines estate planning as “the process of anticipating and arranging for the disposal of an estate.”  I believe a much better definition is one I heard from a colleague of mine from Wealth Counsel:

“I want to control my property while I’m alive, take care of me and my loved ones if I become disabled, and give what I have, to whom I want, the way I want, and when I want.  Furthermore, if I can, I want to save every last tax dollar, professional fee, and court cost legally possible.”

The one item I always add to that definition is: “to make sure that my children are cared for by who I want, in the way I want.”  Of course, this applies only to parents who have minor and/or disabled children.

So here we have the definition, the starting point.  Within the definition are many more considerations.  To accomplish these goals of estate planning, the following documents are commonly used: wills, trusts, general durable power of attorney, and health care powers of attorney/patient advocate designation.  And if you work with a comprehensive Grand Rapids estate planning attorney, there are additional considerations and documents meant to help you pass on your “whole family wealth” – not just what you own, but who you are and what’s important to you!  Because if you think about it, the money and the “stuff” will still be around when you pass away, but it is who you are as a person that will be lost – your values, insights, stories and experiences.  Check back for the next installment in this series to discover some additional considerations that are vital to having a great estate plan for your family.

Michael Lichterman is a dedicated estate planning attorney helping provide peace of mind to families and businesses in Grand Rapids, Grandville, Cascade, Forest Hills, Ada, Byron Center, Caledonia, and the surrounding areas.  He specializes in the needs of professionals with minor children, doctors, nurses, and those in the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), and does so from a Christian perspective.  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.