It seems one good thing about being doused with this latest bucket of economic cold water is that it has woken us up as consumers.
Although somewhat confused as we arise from our cosy slumber of job security and ample credit, it has jolted us into this new mode of vigilant spending…if we are still spending at all.
Financially wide awake, ‘value for money’ has definitely become the new prerequisite before trading hard-earned cash for anything.
Legal services, particularly estate planning advice, are no exception.
In the back of our minds we know that having a will or some sort of estate plan is probably something we ought to do, (and if we’re honest, it’s something we’ve been meaning to do for quite some time).
But with the economic reality now being as it is, we need to know the tangible value gained by creating and following an estate plan — and rightly so.
On the flip side however, the bad thing about this latest squeeze on our pocketbooks is that it has a tendency to cause us to think only in dollars and cents.
Accordingly, we are often only concerned with the financial advantage that our estate plan can provide.
Certainly there are numerous and substantial financial benefits available through well-advised estate planning that should be taken advantage of.
Yet nevertheless, there remains a very non-financial purpose at the core of estate planning.
The proof is this: You can create an estate plan that reduces estate stamp duty (or ‘death tax’ as it is commonly called), probate costs and legal fees, etc. but in the end such financial ‘savings’ are never experienced by you, the estate planner.
No, instead they are enjoyed by your estate, in particular, the beneficiaries of your estate.
Your estate plan is, quite literally, a gift of a lifetime to chosen beneficiaries living after your death.
The reason why you think that such gifts are so important is not because of the financial value of those gifts but because of the value of the relationships you have with those to whom such gifts are given.
No matter how complex or simple the estate plan, no matter how stingy or benevolent the estate planner, the essence of estate planning is almost always altruistic in nature and it is this relational approach to estate planning (as opposed to a purely financial one) that allows us to see a better picture of what estate planning can be.
That is, not just a cost-saving exercise for the next generation, but an exercise that can encourage us to assess our most important relationships — helping us to become that much more intentional about the legacy we plan to leave behind.
• Nathan Samuels, TEP, is an associate at MJM Ltd. He advises on a range of private client matters including trusts, wills, estate planning, probate and estate administration. He also assists clients through the process of real property transactions including residential sales and purchases, mortgages and refinancing. Mr Samuels received the MJM Legal Scholarship Award in 2001. He is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.