The Worst Case Scenario

Sometimes, the catalyst for estate planning is when you see someone in a situation where there was a poor plan or no plan at all and as a result, something bad occurs. Another catalyst is that you've had a scare of your own. For clients that fall into one of these two categories, it is easy to show them the logic of planning for the worst case scenario.

However, for the remaining clients who do not have any urgent reason to do estate planning, it is often times more difficult to show them the value of planning for the worst case scenario. By worst case scenario, we mean scenarios such as giving children an inheritance, only to watch them go bankrupt and have the inheritance go down the tubes… Or two siblings get along now, and have gotten along all their lives, but after mom or dad (or both) pass, something happens that triggers a major conflict between the two.

Reality check: These scenarios and others are not pleasant to think about. But like it or not, they happen more often than we'd like them to happen.

In fact, this is usually one of the biggest challenges in estate planning — presenting a range of worst case scenarios to people based on their family situation. Unfortunately, many estate planning attorneys will tell you only what you want to hear, and will not present such scenarios for you to consider.

As uncomfortable as it may be to face certain facts and possible outcomes, by doing just that, you will sleep better at night knowing that you have a comprehensive plan. Consider the definition of estate planning:

  • Have complete control of your property while you are alive;
  • Take care of you and your loved ones during disability or incapacity;
  • After you pass, give what you own to whom you want, the way you want, and when you want.
  • Furthermore, save every last tax dollar, professional fee and court cost to the maximum extent possible.

Considering that complete definition, it's easy to see how an estate plan that is comprehensive can provide all of the above.

It's also easy to observe that a plan completed in 15 minutes probably won't account for every part of the definition.

You should not walk away from careful and comprehensive planning — work through the challenges, and let the attorney help you find the solutions.

On the flip side, don't overthink it. Overthinking leads to exhaustion and complacency, and you will end up with no plan at all.