Classic children's tales can impart important lessons even to adults. The “Three Little Pigs” teaches its audience, regardless of age, about the importance of, not merely planning, but planning properly. Proper estate planning works on a similar principle. To make sure you have a plan that will survive whatever life throws at you, and still achieve your goals, it is important to work with estate planning professionals who can ensure that the tools and materials used in your plan are the ones best suited to address the challenges that may arise in your life.
A popular children's public television show, designed to encourage preschoolers to read, often engages in re-working classic children's tales to impart life lessons. In one episode, the “Three Little Pigs” solved their problem with the Big, Bad Wolf by befriending the wolf and persuading him to stop blowing down houses. While the importance of kindness is a good lesson to teach preschoolers, the actual lesson of the original “Three Little Pigs” teaches something more than that. In the original, the third pig saves the day, not because he convinced the wolf not to destroy his house, but because his house could withstand whatever the wolf tried to do to blow it down.
Proper estate planning works similar to the third pig's plan. Bad things can happen in life and, like the wolf in the original fairy tale, sometimes you cannot stop them from visiting you. But you can stop, or minimize, their destructive force by engaging in proper planning. A lot of times, proper planning involves following the adage that encourages us to “hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” The third pig followed this method of planning when he built his house. Houses of sticks and straw were vulnerable to many potential calamities. The third pig's house survived because its material (brick) could withstand the worst onslaught the wolf could bring. It withstood the wolf because the third pig had the right tools (bricks) to accomplish the desired goal (creating a house that could last.)
With estate planning, the law also gives you materials and tools to help you hope for the best and plan for the worst, and create a lasting legacy. With the help of your estate planning attorney, you can create a plan that will withstand the foreseeable harms that may await you. If the “big bad wolf” you desire to plan for is the costs, delays and stresses of probate, the law gives you tools to plan for that. For many people, your proper materials to overcome this problem might include a revocable living trust or titling assets in pay-on-death/transfer-on-death ownership structures. If the wolf that concerns you is the possibility of mental incapacity, you have materials you can use, too. These can include powers of attorney and also living trusts. If you need to protect against the possibility of death taxes, your plan may involve different materials, such as irrevocable trusts. If you have a special-needs child in your life, the materials in your plan will likely look different still, utilizing such devices as supplemental needs trusts.
In estate planning, each family's situation is unique; for each family, the “wolf” at your door looks a little different from someone else's. With a proper plan prepared with the assistance of a reliable estate planning attorney, you can be sure your plan will survive whatever “huffing and puffing” life throws at you.