I wrote this piece before “the election” after reading an article on the “what if” of an election tie. Each party’s camp, of course, believed their candidate was going to win with a considerable margin. Yet, each party’s camp also had a team of lawyers already prepared for the “what if” of a tie.
The article reminded me of a lesson I learned long ago from a very wise woman. And that lesson is that every coin has 3 sides, not 2 but 3. Moreover, irrespective of how unlikely it may be that the coin will land on its third side, that likelihood should never be ignored.
The lesson of the third side is one I share with not just clients but everyone I can. However, let’s talk about estate planning for a minute. Of course, there’s no “what if” about death; we’re all going to die one day whether we want to or not, but estate planning is about much more than death.
Consider the phrase, “estate planning”: Legally speaking your “estate” is everything you own. “Planning” is self-explanatory. So, estate planning is about planning for what you own. If you have loved ones, this plan naturally includes determining how those assets will be distributed to your loved ones during your lifetime and upon your death.
The lesson of the third side is also about the “what ifs” of estate planning:
- Today, you’re a young couple with an infant and nothing but life insurance and what if…you win the lottery?
- Your parents left you with a substantial inheritance, which could have adverse tax implications for you, what if…there was a way you could roll it over?
- Your health is fine, your kids are adults and financially stable, your estate is sufficient to see you through retirement and what if…you don’t own a home?
- You want to start taking a lot more time away from your small business, which you’ve successfully established and maintained over the last 15 years, what if…you’ve been the sole proprietor all those years?
- This year, you’re taking advantage of the homestead exemption for your residence but you’re approaching retirement , want to give the house to your children, what if…you still need a place to stay?
- Like millions of others, you’re now behind retirement planning because Enron, the subprime mortgage, and the boyz on Wall Street took a chunk out of your 401(k), and what if…your partner becomes seriously ill?
- Today the federal estate tax exemption is $5.12 million; if Congress does nothing by December 31, 2012, what if …on November 30, you had sold your business for $8 million?
Gran always said the third side is the least best or worst expected outcome. Consider the coin’s third side as you plan and you’ve planned just about as well as you can.