Incorporating Life Milestones Into Your Estate Plan

January 3, 2023

Life is riddled with unknowns. While you can control certain events like whether you’ll have kids or tie the knot, other milestones are not as easy to predict. Life comes at your fast, and sudden, unexpected events can muddle with estate planning. For this reason, make sure your plan is flexible.

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You’re able (and it’s recommended) to update your estate plan as you age. But when you die, the plan is more or less set in stone. To curb some of the unknowns that will inevitably arise, it’s a good idea to incorporate milestones into your estate plan. Milestones trigger predetermined decisions that allow you to exercise your wishes and pass wealth to loved ones after you are gone.

If-Then Statements: The Key To Carrying Out Your Wishes

If-then statements are pre-made decisions that are carried out based on conditions you set. They are commonly seen in legal documentation, including estate plans.

The concept of if-then statements is straightforward. If a certain criteria is met, then a given action is put into motion. Take the following for example: “If my spouse and I both pass away before our children are fit to care for themselves, [Relative X] will be nominated as their rightful guardian."

Clauses like these can reserve some of the power you have over otherwise unforeseen circumstances. They also offer more flexibility than more simplistic declarative statements (“I leave the property in The Hamptons to my oldest daughter”, for example).

If-then statements can build upon one another to account for various future scenarios. So you could say, “If my spouse and I both pass away before our children are fit to care for themselves, [Relative X] will be nominated as their rightful guardian. If [Relative X] is unfit to care for our children, [Friend A] will assume the nomination.”

Common Milestones to Include In Your Estate Plan

The beauty of conditional actions in your estate plan is that they can take on many forms. Aside from if-then statements, you can also include asset allocations or gifts that are put into motion when certain milestones are reached.

Check out these events that are commonly incorporated to trigger gifts or distributions to loved ones:

  • An individual turns 18 or 21: As your kids get older, you can give them more responsibility. This can include giving them authority to preside over trust investments set aside for them.
  • Earning a degree or certificate: Earning a college degree or professional certification is worth celebrating. You can indicate that beneficiaries will receive a gift upon completion.
  • Buying a first home: Putting a chunk of money towards a loved one’s first home will help continue wealth preservation within a family.
  • Financing a wedding celebration: Even if you are gone, you can still help to pay for a child’s first marriage via a clause in your estate plan.
  • Employment status: Perhaps a listed beneficiary who has historically rocky employment behavior changes themselves for the better after you’re gone. A conditional clause can indicate that they’ll receive inheritance upon being employed for a full year.
  • Sobriety Status: Similar to an employment clause, you can enact a conditional clause based upon the sobriety status of a beneficiary. This could be dependent on whether they are sober for a full year or complete a rehab program, for example.
  • Child raising: When your kids yearn to raise their own little ones, you can assist them with the inevitable costs. Whether they use the funds to birth their own, decide to adopt, or require reproductive assistance, extra money is always appreciated.
  • Retirement: An estimated two-thirds of American adults have no retirement money set aside. You can trigger a lump sum to be gifted to a beneficiary when they reach a healthy retirement age to reward them for their hard work.

These milestones are just the tip of the iceberg, and can be combined or modified. For instance, you may give wedding money to a child while storing the rest of their inheritance within a trust. This ensures that if they get divorced, the assets you pass on won’t fall into the hands of their ex-spouse.

You can also set up your estate plan to allocate more money to an individual if the value of that asset increases over time. Remember that if-then statements can be used to make such allocations flexible. The possibilities are endless.

Secure Your Future with Reno Estate Planners

It's a complicated process to populate your estate plan with if-then statements and other milestones. But the work you do up front will protect you and your loved ones from the unknowns of the future.

The professional estate planners at Anderson, Dorn & Rader will help to put all your wishes in writing. To simplify the proceedings, we can spell out your conditional statements with flow charts and diagrams. These can then be integrated into your estate plan to provide clarity after you’re gone.

Whether you’re looking to update an existing life plan, or start from scratch, our estate planning lawyers can help. Contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader to secure your plans for the future and continue your legacy after you’re gone.

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