Confronting our own mortality is a matter every one dreads. The association of wills and trusts with death often means that their real benefits are overlooked.
We put off writing a will or creating a trust as much as possible saying that we are neither old enough nor rich enough.
In the course of our lives, we will work hard to meet our basic needs, raise our families and take care of ourselves in retirement. Writing a will or creating a trust is known as estate planning.
Estate planning has three significant benefits for the living. First, it ensures our loved ones will be taken care of if we are no longer there to provide.
Second, it ensures that we will be able to take care of ourselves in our golden years. Third, it allows us to leave a footprint that speaks to future generations of the purpose of our lives.
It is often assumed that a person must accumulate enormous financial resources in order to be able to meet all the goals of estate planning. In honesty, you cannot do this with nothing – you will need a few resources to get it done. The quantity of resources is dependent on your individual objectives.
Angie and Chris met, fell in love and got married. They worked hard, bought a little plot of land and were able to put up a home. They also started a family.
The two did not have much else by way of resources, yet they wanted to provide for their young children if anything happened to them, take care of themselves in retirement and leave a marker that would be a living memorial of their lives for their descendants. But all they had at the time was this modest family home. How was this going to work?
Chris and Angie made a will and created a simple trust. The will and trust provided that if they both passed on, their house would be rented out and the income used to provide for the school fees and upkeep of their children to ensure that the children would not be a financial drain on their guardians.
In this way, Chris and Angie were able to use their modest home to achieve the first goal of estate planning – which is to provide for our dependants.
The trust they created also made arrangements for their old age and retirement. In addition to any other resources or if they had no other resources, their house could be rented out and the income used to pay for their living expenses. The second goal has been met.
Once the children were grown up and finished with school or if Chris and Angie no longer required the rental income from the house, the trust provided that the income would be invested and continue to grow.
When the grandchildren of Angie and Chris were of school going age, that income would be used to pay for their school fees until such time as they were grown up.
The house would continue to generate income and this income would continue to be invested, ensuring sufficient resources to for the great grandchildren. This legacy of education would be their footprint.
The story of Chris and Angie, shows us that we do not need to have enormous wealth to have an estate plan that allows us to provide for loved ones, take care of ourselves in retirement and to leave a legacy.
An estate plan can be created out of the proceeds of the sale of a plot, a simple insurance policy or even a pension plan. If you are the intellectual and creative type, your legacy can be the intellectual property in your creations.
As with Chris and Angie, the most important thing is the commitment and vision for how we want our hard work to be reflected in our lives and those of our loved ones.
Writing a will or creating a trust is straightforward once the commitment has been made. A qualified and experienced lawyer will be able to guide you through the formalities.
It is important that you participate in the process by writing down your wishes. Your adviser will then be able to show you how these wishes can be achieved and let you know the options available.
Not only is estate planning within our grasp and in our heritage, it has the added advantage of lending validity and purpose to our work effort.
When we start an estate plan, it encourages us to focus on what is important. We investigate the purpose of each acquisition and accumulation. Thus estate planning is not really about planning for death; it is really enhancing our lives.