What is Estate Planning Really About?

What is Estate Planning Really About?

By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD

What's Estate Planning Really About?

By Martin M. Shenkman


Estate planning is about developing, implementing and monitoring a comprehensive plan to protect you, your loved ones and your wealth.

It doesn't matter how young or old, rich or poor, famous or invisible you might be. The definition is the same, but the goals are unique to you and must be defined and set by you.

Introduction - Get Back to Basics

For our new national radio audience let's take a step back and look at what estate planning is really about. While the impact of the recession is on everyone's mind, the basics of what estate planning is really about haven't changed. Keeping the key objectives in mind will assure you a better result. It will also change the process for you.

What Estate Planning is Not Only About

There are a lot of things estate planning should not be about:

  • Avoiding the purported evils of probate is usually misguided as a major goal. Probate is rarely as "bad" as its made out to be. Some of the biggest "costs" are often executor fees to family who may waive them. There are legal fees incurred to avoid probate, and to administer your estate even if you do avoid probate!
  • Saving estate taxes which on a federal level is irrelevant for at least 98% of people. The tax, which only begins at $3.5 million in net worth being transferred to a non-spouse, affects very few people.
  • Publicity is important to avoid if you're a national figure. But for most people, yawn, who cares what you do in your will?

What Estate Planning is Really About

There are a lot of components to a real estate plan. It is not just a will.

  • Documents - get in place the documents to protect you and your loved ones. This will generally include a power of attorney, living will, health care proxy, But in almost every case it will have to include additional documents to fit your personal needs.
  • Financial Plan - a great will is almost useless if you die broke. You need a financial plan to do an estate plan. Financial planning is at the core of any good estate plan.
  • Insurance - for your home, car, life, work (disability) and more. A proper insurance plan can be the glue to bridge your financial plan and estate plan.


One dimensional plans that focus on one item, getting a will, avoiding probate, etc. are generally useless, or worse. Get real and do it right. There are no magic bullets. It will take money, time and effort to do the job right. Anything less won't work.

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