There are many unknowns when planning an estate, but you can’t let the uncertainties get in the way of creating any kind of plan. Having an imperfect plan is usually better than having no plan at all.
When planning an estate you want to be able to consider all the angles, but there are inevitably a number of “known unknowns” that can make planning difficult.
- How long you will live
- How much money you will have left over, which can depend on longevity and potential need for care
- Your children’s health
- Your children’s financial stability, now and perhaps many decades into the future
There are also value judgments to make. Should you treat all children equally, or should their financial situations be taken into account? In any family, some siblings can be wildly successful financially, while others struggle. Some children may have supported you in your old age and others totally ignored you. (A word to the wise: Unless you have had a discussion with your children, treat them equally in your estate plan. You can provide differential support during your life, but unequal distributions at death can create great difficulties if they come as a surprise.) Should you create trusts that protect assets for your children and grandchildren, or simply provide that the funds be distributed outright at your death for them to use as they choose? Whom should you appoint in various roles—as agent under powers of attorney, as health care proxies, as trustees, as personal representatives?