Why You Should Care About Estate Planning: Professionals

Moving along in my Intro to Estate Planning series, we will continue to look at why planning is important for  family of different types and at different life stages.  I started by uncovering the many benefits estate planning holds for parents with children under 18.  If you are a parent with children under 18 years old and still have questions, contact me to have your questions answered.

The next group we’ll look at is more of a “type” of family rather than a stage of life: professionals.  My definition of a “professional” is broad, including doctors, lawyers, certified public accountants (CPAs), accountants, bankers, financial advisers, nurses, teachers, middle- to high-level company managers, CEOs, company Presidents, and other similar positions.  I view this group so broadly because they all share similar concerns, at varying degrees.

Some important reasons proper estate planning is critical for professionals (and their families) include:

  • Guardianship remains one of the most important reasons to estate plan if you have children under 18 years old.  Without designating who you want to raise your children in your absence, a court will decide who will care for them. If you haven’t named guardians for your children, you should run, not walk to an attorney specializing in estate planning (and focusing on guardianship decision).  If you have named guardians, you most likely made at least 1 of 6 common mistakesContact me to learn more!
  • Asset Protection. As a professional with a special skill, you face a greater threat of liability.  You have worked hard to accomplish great things and are building a secure financial future for your family.  Don’t leave it exposed to future divorce, lawsuits and creditors.  And this pertains as much to you as it does to your children and grandchildren (and on down the line).  You can pass your financial wealth on to them protected from divorce, lawsuit and creditors as well.
  • Planning for your incapacity to avoid bitter conflict about your finances and your health care. You need to give people you trust the legal authority, guidance and direction on how to handle your finances and your health care.  Enhanced Powers of Attorney, EnhancedPatient Advocate Designations, and Living Trusts are key components to making sure your wishes are recognized and followed.
  • Avoiding probate.  Without a proper plan in place, your hard earned wealth will go through a time consuming and often costly court process. Wouldn’t you rather your family be able to benefit right away and receive more of what you worked so hard to accomplish?
  • Passing on your “whole family wealth,” not just your money.  This includes your values, insights, stories and experiences – who you are and what is important to you.  In my experience this is THE most overlooked part of estate planning.  The professionals I’ve worked with have accomplished a lot and continue to reach new levels of accomplishment.  Yet in most circumstances they have not taken the time to explain their struggles, how they overcame, and what they learned – these are far more important than money to their kids, grandkids, and future generations.

These are just a few of the reasons professionals need an estate plan.  Can you think of more?  Please share your thoughts and experiences.

With my next post in the series, I will look at the “sandwich generation” – people who have concerns about their parents and their children.

Michael Lichterman is an attorney specializing in estate planning and 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 “whole family wealth” planning for professionals with minor children, doctors, nurses, lawyers, and 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.

Make sure you pass on your “whole family wealth,” not just your money.  This includes your values, insights, stories and experiences – who you are and what is important to you.  In my experience this is THE most overlooked part of estate planning.  It happens to be one of the most fulfilling privileges I have when working with families.

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