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What is the human element of estate planning?

The majority of parents care a great deal about whether or not their children grow into adults who are defined by character and integrity. Unfortunately, the foundation of “The American Dream” and the most general focus of estate planning processes can sometimes work against this ultimate goal. The simple reality is that beneficiaries of generous estate planning gifts are human. And that human element must be taken into account when parents and other concerned individuals are constructing their estate plans.

The American Dream insists that parents create lives for their children that are “better” than those they themselves have lived. “Better” is a relative term. However, it is often construed to mean that parents should give their children greater financial stability and material wealth than they themselves have had. Unfortunately, if parents construct their estate plans with only an eye towards achieving this end, they may compromise the ability of their children to grow into character-driven adults.

The most basic aim of financially-related estate planning is to guard assets from taxes and creditors in order to transfer the most significant amount of money possible from an individual to his or her heirs. However, if parents do not work with an attorney experienced in estate planning law to construct their estate plans according to their values, heirs could be gifted money and assets in such a way that they are no longer compelled to work, be generous to others or otherwise remain financially accountable for their own decisions.

There are ways to construct estate plans that allow parents to transfer money to their heirs in ways that match their values and priorities. Please, if you are concerned that your estate plan might inhibit your children’s emotional growth, consider revising it with the help of an experienced attorney.

Source: New York Times, “Focusing on the Human Element of Estate Planning,” Paul Sullivan, Nov. 7, 2014

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