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.
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 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.”
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:
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.
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.