At age 36, I was a cocksure lawyer who was confident that he’d seen it all and had all of the answers. When challenged by an elderly client to start with my very best advice—the advice that I’d give on my deathbed—I had no immediate answer and realized that I’d never articulated my own planning beliefs and philosophies. I immediately took to remedying that situation by creating a one-page list of my beliefs and philosophies on estate planning.
I consider myself to be a purposeful estate planner. By “purposeful,” I mean that I consider the client’s total life picture and employ traditional and holistic means to achieve a “good planning result—one that achieves the client’s goals, reflects the client’s values and nurtures or at least doesn’t harm the relationships of those who survive the client. Notice that there’s no mention of tax elimination or minimization in that definition. Some clients’ goals conflict with tax minimization; that’s just a fact. Here are some of my core beliefs. These are in no particular order of importance, as they’re all equal.
This is an adapted version of the author's original piece from the May issue of Trusts & Estates.