When it comes to putting off or refusing to create an estate plan, your mind can concoct all sorts of rationalizations: “I won’t care because I’ll be dead,” “I’m too young,” “That won’t happen to me,” or “My family will know what to do.”

But these thoughts all come from a mix of pride, denial, and a lack of real education about estate planning and the consequences to your family. Once you understand exactly what planning is designed to prevent and support, you’ll realize there really is no acceptable excuse for not having a plan, provided you are able to plan and truly care about your family’s experience after you die or become incapacitated.

With that in mind, here are some of the things most likely to happen to you and your loved ones if you fail to create any estate plan at all.

Your family will have to go to court
If you don’t have a plan, or only have a will (yes, even with a will), you’re forcing your family to go through probate upon your death. Probate is the legal process for settling your estate, and even if you have a will, it’s notoriously slow, costly, and public.

Depending on the complexity of your estate, probate can take years to complete. And like most court proceedings, probate is expensive. In fact, once all your debts, taxes, and court fees have been paid, there might be nothing left for anyone to inherit. And if there are any assets left, your family will likely have to pay hefty attorney’s fees and court costs in order to claim them.

The expense and drama of the court system can be almost totally avoided with proper planning. Using a trust, for example, we can ensure that your assets pass directly to your family upon your death, without the need for any court intervention.

You have no control over who inherits your assets
If you die without a plan, the court will decide who inherits your assets, and this can lead to all sorts of problems. Who is entitled to your property is determined by California’s intestate succession laws, which hinge largely upon on whether you are married and if you have children.

Spouses and children are given top priority, followed by your other closest living family members. If you’re single with no children, your assets typically go to your parents and siblings, and then more distant relatives if you have no living parents or siblings. If no living relatives can be located, your assets go to the state.

Keep in mind, intestacy laws only apply to blood relatives, so unmarried partners and/or close friends would get nothing. If you want someone outside of your family to inherit your property, having a plan is an absolute must.

You have no control over your medical, financial, or legal decisions in the event of your incapacity

Most people assume estate planning only comes into play when they die, but that’s dead wrong. Yes, pun intended.

If you become incapacitated and have no plan in place, your family would have to petition the court to appoint a guardian or conservator to manage your affairs. This process can be extremely costly, time consuming, and traumatic for everyone involved. In fact, incapacity can be a much greater burden for your loved ones than even your death.

You need Powers of Attorney which grant the person(s) of your choice the immediate authority to make your medical, financial, and legal decisions for you in the event of your incapacity. You can also provide specific guidelines detailing how you want your medical care to be managed, including critical end-of-life decisions.

You have no control over who will raise your children
If you’re the parent of minor children, the most devastating consequence of having no estate plan is what could happen to your kids in the event of your death or incapacity. Without a plan in place naming legal guardians for your kids, it will be left for a judge to decide who cares for your children. And this could cause major heartbreak not only for your children, but for your entire family.

You’d like to think that a judge would select the best person to care for your kids, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Indeed, the judge could pick someone from your family you’d never want to raise them to adulthood. And if you don’t have any family, or the family you do have is deemed unfit, your children could be raised by total strangers.

If you have minor children, your number-one planning priority should be naming legal guardians to care for your children if anything should happen to you. This is so critical, we’ve developed a comprehensive system called the Child Protection Plan® to accomplish this goal.

No more excuses
Given the potentially dire consequences for both you and your family, you can’t afford to put off creating your estate plan any longer. And once you have a plan in place, you’ll gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your loved ones will be provided and cared for no matter what happens to you. Don’t wait another day.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

In a recent Facebook post “Processes to go through with your parents before they die,” Daniel Schmachtenberger, founder of the Critical Path Institute, outlined seven simple exercises to use with your parents that can offer significant healing and completion for their life and yours.

While Daniel shared these processes in the context of the impending death of a parent, the reality is that your parents are heading toward death, even if there is no official diagnosis. And starting these processes when mortality isn’t immediately on the table is even better.
 
1. Help them make a timeline of their life
Create a timeline of all the big events in their life, starting with birth and their earliest memories up to the present. This is a great way to get to know them even better while you still can. Recalling their life through these stories can help them harvest the gifts, relive the good times, and identify any areas that still feel unresolved.

There are apps for creating timelines, but it’s easily done with pen and paper. Create the timeline by writing “birth” on the far left of the page, and draw a horizontal line going towards “death” on the far right. Experiences are placed on the line chronologically in the order they occurred. Positive experiences are depicted as vertical lines going up from the horizontal line, and difficult experiences as lines going down. Write short descriptions to correspond with each experience.

One way to help prompt memories is to ask questions about different people, places, and things from their past: romantic relationships, jobs, and places they lived. Going through old photos, letters, and music can also trigger meaningful memories.

When documenting their life events, the positive experiences can simply be recalled and enjoyed. For the negative ones, you can ask them what they learned from the experience and write that lesson in the description. In this way, you can find beauty and meaning in all of it.

2. Relationship healing
To foster healing in your personal relationship with them, focus on three areas:

  • Peacemaking: Forgive them for any way they hurt you, and help them forgive themselves. Apologize for the ways you hurt them. You want to ensure that neither of you feels any residual pain (resentment, guilt, or remorse) in the relationship.
  • Appreciation and gratitude: Write them a letter detailing everything you learned from them and all the positive experiences you had together. Go deep within to discover all they did for you, really appreciate it, and use the letter to help them feel your appreciation. Pinpoint any of their virtues you hope to embody most in your life and share that commitment with them, so they know they’ll live on through you once they’re gone.
  • Reassurance: It’s common for parents to resist leaving you over concerns for your future well-being. Reassure them that you are alright, will be alright, and it’s okay for them to go. Using estate planning to help them get their affairs in order is a major part of this.

3. Family healing
If possible, help other family members go through the above healing process with your parents. Help your dying parent make peace with everyone in their life, even if some individuals can’t speak directly with them. Reassure them that you’ll help take care of those loved ones who are in the most need.

4. Wisdom gathering
Ask them for life advice on anything and everything you can think of. As the old African proverb says, “Every time an old person dies, a library burns,” so make sure to write down or record as much of their personal wisdom as possible.

5. Bucket list
To make the most of the time you have left, ask them if there’s anything they really want to experience before they go, and fulfill as many of these bucket-list items as you can.

6. Help them see how they touched the world
In addition to documenting the positive impact they’ve had on your life, help them inventory all of the meaningful ways they’ve touched the lives of others. You want them to clearly see all of the beauty and meaning their life has brought to the world.

7. Help them be at peace with passing
While the above steps can help bring them peace, if they experience any fear of death, do your best to help them move through that. When death comes, you want them to be ready to greet him as an old friend.

If they practice a particular religion, you can recite their favorite verses, hymns, and/or prayers. Or they might find comfort in hearing their most beloved poems or songs. Silent or guided meditation is often helpful as well. But sometimes, simply offering them your loving presence and holding their hand is enough.

Preserving your family’s intangible assets
The life stories, lessons, and values that come from these final conversations can be among the most precious of all your family’s assets. And to make sure these gifts aren’t lost forever, we’ve developed our own process for preserving and passing on these intangible assets.

Indeed, we consider such legacy planning so important, this service is included with every estate plan we create. Using a series of helpful questions and prompts like the exercises Daniel outlines, we’ll guide you to create a customized video in which you share your most insightful memories and experiences with those you’re leaving behind. 
 
Though estate planning is mainly viewed as a way to pass on your financial wealth and property, when done right, it also enables you to preserve and pass on your true legacy: your memories, values, and wisdom. With the right support, having these all-important conversations doesn’t have to be intimidating or awkward at all.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Marc

I just boarded a 6:45 am flight to Denver with my family. We were split up. Actually, Yan and Cade were put together. Ella and I were both assigned middle seats, across the aisle from each other in the same row. I guess that’s what I get for buying the budget economy ticket on United. 

It just never would have occurred to me that United would sit a 9-year-old child by herself. I knew we didn’t get guaranteed seats … I didn’t pay the extra $20 per ticket for the privilege of picking my own seats … and now I regret it. 

First, for me, traveling is all about the experience with my family. Even the airplane ride is an important part of that experience. Second, poor Ella, a child had to sit by herself between two strangers. And if that wasn’t enough to make me feel like I totally botched booking the flight, I then have to sit through the safety briefing (which should really be called the disaster seminar). 

I’m being told to secure my own oxygen mask first before assisting my child. United may not have noticed, but that little stretchy hose on the mask isn’t long enough to reach across the aisle. So, I am either unable to assist my child or I cannot remain in my seat to secure my own mask. No good choices you’ve left me, United, but I know which one I’m going to take. Yet I’m very uneasy at the thought of having to make such a choice and I’m rattled at the thought of jumping out of my seat, running across the aisle, and trying to get Ella’s oxygen mask on her in the midst of whatever emergency we find ourselves in, all while trying to hold my breath so I can take care of my daughter before I pass out from lack of oxygen. 

Then the flight attendant gets to the emergency exit part of the briefing which induces a vision of my little girl being trampled and me throwing elbows to try to get to her. But I’m quickly relieved of that imagery as the flight attendant pulls me into the terror that is the inflatable life vest. I’m not even sure I could follow the instructions on how to deploy  (and anything you have to “deploy” is inherently complicated, just saying) the darn thing. Ella’s in real trouble if she must do that for herself … or rely on me to do it for her for that matter. And do they expect me to rely on a stranger to do that for her in the event of a chaotic water landing? C’mon, United.

Ah, but then a moment of relief as I remember the whole thing is a big tease anyway (I saw “Fight Club”). Of course, from that point on I could only think of the plane going down without me even being able to hold my little girl’s hand or provide her any small comfort in our last moments.  And all this would confirm my ultimate failure as a father. Ugh!!

At any rate, that was the demented torture my mind put me through. Perhaps it’s just my innate morbidity as an estate planning attorney – always looking through the lens of “what could go wrong here” – but that was the path my brain took.  

United Airlines, this is not an open letter to call you out – though shame on you for forcing a young child to sit by herself, and for making her parent be apart from his child, and for the hypocrisy of your safety briefing when you separate a parent from his child, and for not making it clear you would separate a parent from his child if he did not pay the extra $20 per seat to choose those seats.

And shame on me for being a cheapskate and allowing my daughter and myself to be put in that position. BUT, there’s also a big business takeaway here for me. I have a large sign in our lobby titled “We believe”. It goes on to list a bunch of beliefs which are part of the culture of my firm, several of which are pertinent here–

“We believe cheap legal services are never a good substitute for value.” United, along with most of the rest of the airline industry, is on a race to the bottom: cutting services, competing to see who can be the cheapest, and losing sight of (or just not caring about) the customer experience. So, I had a negative experience on this flight, and I don’t feel like United particularly cares about me or my family. Substituting cheap service for value created a yucky experience and a negative association with that business. I never want my clients to feel that way.

“We believe nothing is more important than family.” We want our employees to know that. We want our clients to know that. We want to support both our clients and our employees in taking care of their families. We don’t want hypocritical policies or insensitive procedures.  We want everything we say and everything we do stand for and stand by family. 

“We believe being a parent is the most challenging, most rewarding thing in life.” I failed as a father, yet again (but luckily with no dire consequences- we just landed.). But I learned much this morning. Don’t trust every company to do what’s right (especially where your children are concerned). A good company makes it clear what they stand for and makes it a consistent message throughout their interactions with their customers.  Oh, and a dad has to forgive himself over and over again and sometimes thank his child for being brave when things don’t go as planned.

Thank you, Ella.

Because getting divorced can be overwhelming on so many different levels, updating your estate plan often takes a back seat to other seemingly more-pressing priorities. But failing to update your plan for divorce can have potentially tragic consequences, some of which you may have never considered before.

In fact, this is something your divorce attorney probably won’t think to bring up, but it’s literally one of the most critical matters you need to handle if you’re ending your marriage. Last week, I discussed the first two estate planning changes you must make—updating your power of attorney documents and beneficiary designations—and today we’ll share the remaining three.

3. Create a new will

You should create a new will as soon as you decide to get divorced, because once you file, you may not be able to change your will. Rethink how you want your assets divided upon your death. This most likely means naming new beneficiaries for any assets that you’d previously left to your future ex and his or her family. And unless it’s your wish, you’ll probably no longer want your ex—or any of his or her family—listed as your will’s executor or administrator, either.

California has community-property statutes that entitle your surviving spouse to a certain percentage of the marital estate upon your death, regardless of what’s in your will. This means if you die before the divorce is final, you probably won’t be able to entirely disinherit your surviving spouse through the new will.

However, it’s almost certain you wouldn’t want him or her to get everything. Given this, you should update your will as soon as possible once divorce is inevitable to ensure the proper individuals inherit the remaining percentage of your estate should you pass away while your divorce is still ongoing.

4. Amend your existing trust or create a new one
If you have a revocable trust set up, you’ll want to review and update it, too. Like wills, the laws governing if, when, and how you can alter a trust during a divorce are complex. In addition to reconsidering what assets your ex-spouse should receive through the trust, you’ll probably want to replace him or her as a successor trustee if they are so designated.

And if you don’t have a trust in place, you should seriously consider creating one, especially if you have minor children. Trusts provide a wide range of powers and benefits unavailable through a will, and they’re particularly well-suited for blended families. Given the likelihood that both you and your spouse will eventually get remarried—and perhaps have more children—trusts are an invaluable way to protect and manage the assets you want your children to inherit.

By using a trust, for example, should you die or become incapacitated while your kids are minors, you can name someone of your choosing to serve as successor trustee to manage their money until they reach adulthood, making it impossible for your ex to meddle with their inheritance.

Beyond this key benefit, trusts afford you several other levels of enhanced protection and control not possible with a will. So you should at least discuss creating a trust with an experienced lawyer before ruling out the option entirely.

5. Revisit your plan once your divorce is final
During the divorce process, your main planning concern is limiting your soon-to-be ex’s control over your life and assets should you die or become incapacitated before divorce is final. Given this, the individuals to whom you grant power of attorney, name as trustee, designate to receive your 401k, or add to your estate plan in any other way while the divorce is ongoing are often just temporary.

Once the divorce is final and your marital property has been divided up, you should revisit all your estate planning documents and update them accordingly based on your new asset profile and living situation. From there, your plan should continuously evolve along with your life circumstances, particularly following major life events, such as getting remarried, having additional children, and/or when close family members pass away.

Don’t wait; act now!

Even though divorce can be one of life’s most difficult transitions, it’s vital that you make the time to update your estate plan during this trying time. Meet with a trusted estate planning attorney to review your plan immediately upon realizing that divorce is unavoidable.

Putting off updating your plan, even for a few days, during a divorce can make it legally impossible to change certain parts of your plan, so act immediately. And if you’ve yet to create any estate plan at all, an impending divorce is the perfect time to finally take care of this crucial task.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Divorce can be traumatic for the whole family. Even if the process is amicable, it involves many tough decisions, legal hassles, and painful emotions that can drag out over several months, or even years.

That said, while you probably don’t want to add any more items to your to-do list during this trying time, it’s absolutely critical that you review and update your estate plan—not only after the divorce is final, but as soon as possible once you know the split is inevitable.

Even after you file for divorce, your marriage is legally in full effect until your divorce is finalized. That means if you die while the divorce is still ongoing and you haven’t updated your estate plan, your soon-to-be-ex spouse could end up inheriting everything. Maybe even worse, in the event you’re incapacitated before the divorce is final, your ex would be in complete control of your legal, financial, and healthcare decisions.

Given the fact you’re ending the relationship, you probably wouldn’t want him or her having that much control over your life and assets. If that’s the case, you must act, and chances are, your divorce attorney is not thinking about these matters.

While California law limits your ability to completely change your estate plan once your divorce has been filed, the following are a few of the most important updates you should consider making as soon as possible when divorce is on the horizon.

1. Update your power of attorney documents for healthcare, financial, and legal decisions
If you are incapacitated by illness or injury during the divorce, who would you want making life-and-death healthcare decisions on your behalf? In the midst of divorce, chances are you’ll want someone other than your soon-to-be ex making these important decisions for you. If that’s the case, you must act immediately; don’t wait.

Similarly, who would you want managing your finances and making legal decisions for you? Considering the impending split, you’ll most likely want to select another individual, particularly if things are anything less than friendly between the two of you. Again, you must take action if you do not want your spouse making these decisions for you. Don’t wait.

2. Update your beneficiary designations
Failing to update beneficiary designations for assets that do not pass through a will or trust, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, is one of the most frequent—and tragic—planning mistakes made by those who get divorced. If you get remarried following your divorce, for example, but haven’t changed your IRA beneficiary designation to name your new spouse, the ex you divorced 10 years ago could end up with your retirement savings upon your death.

That said, once either spouse files divorce papers with the court, neither party can legally amend their beneficiaries without the other’s permission until the divorce is final. Given this, if you’re anticipating a divorce, you may want to consider changing your beneficiaries prior to filing divorce papers. If your divorce is already filed, once the divorce is finalized making these changes should be your number-one planning priority. In fact, put it on your to-do list right now!

Next week, we’ll continue with part two in this series on the critical estate-planning updates you should make when divorce is inevitable.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Going on vacation entails lots of planning: packing luggage, making travel arrangements, holding mail, etc. But one thing many people forget to do is plan for the worst. Traveling, especially in foreign destinations, means you’ll likely be at greater risk than usual for illness, injury, and even death.

In light of this reality, you must have a legally sound and updated estate plan in place before taking your next trip. If not, your loved ones can face a legal nightmare if something should happen to you while you’re away. The following are 5 critical estate planning tasks to take care of before departing.

1. Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date
Some of your most valuable assets, like life insurance policies and retirement accounts, do not transfer via a will or trust. Instead, they have beneficiary designations that allow you to name the person (or persons) you’d like to inherit the asset upon your death. It’s vital you name a primary beneficiary and at least one alternate beneficiary. Moreover, these designations must be regularly reviewed and updated, especially following major life events like marriage, divorce, and having children.

2. Create power of attorney documents
Unforeseen illness and injury can leave you incapacitated and unable to make critical decisions about your own well-being. Given this, you must grant someone the legal authority to make those decisions on your behalf through powers of attorney. You need two such documents: a medical power of attorney and a durable financial power of attorney. The medical power of attorney gives the person of your choice the authority to make your healthcare decisions for you, while the durable financial power of attorney gives someone the authority to manage your finances. As with beneficiary designations, these decision makers can change over time, so before you leave for vacation, be sure both documents are up to date.

3. Name guardians for your minor children
If you’re the parent of minor children, your most important planning task is to legally document guardians to care for your kids in the event of your death or incapacity. These are the people whom you trust to care for your children—and potentially raise them to adulthood—if something should happen to you. Given the monumental importance of this decision, we’ve created a comprehensive system called the Kids Protection Plan that guides you step-by-step through the process of creating the legal documents naming these guardians. You can get started with this process right now by calling us or attending one of our free Guardian Nomination Workshops (our next one is at the Sierra Madre Public Library on May 4, 2019).

4. Organize your digital assets
If you’re like most people, you probably have dozens of digital accounts like email, social media, cloud storage, and cryptocurrency. If these assets aren’t properly inventoried and accounted for, they’ll likely be lost forever if something happens to you. At minimum, you should write down the location and passwords for each account and ensure someone you trust knows what to do with these digital assets in the event of your death or incapacity. To make this process easier, consider using LastPass or a similar service that stores and organizes your passwords.

Complete your vacation planning now
If you have a vacation planned, be sure to add these 5 items to your to-do list before leaving. And if you need help completing any of these tasks—or would simply like us to double check the plan you have in place—call us and mention this article for a friendly, informative, no-pressure, complimentary consultation.

We recommend you complete these tasks at least 8 weeks before you depart. However, if your trip is sooner than that, call and let us know you need a rush Family Estate Planning Session, and we’ll do our best to fit you in as soon as possible.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Last week, I discussed how a lack of intimacy in the parent-child relationship has led kids to bond more intensely with their peers. Here, I’ll look at the devastating effects these peer-centered relationships can have, and how parents can reclaim their role as the chief-orienting influence in their children’s lives.

The crisis of the young
For evidence of just how unhealthy it can be when a child’s relationship with his or her peers matters more than the one they have with their parents, Maté points to the dramatic rise in violence, suicide, and mass shootings among today’s youth.

Maté found that in the vast majority of childhood suicides, the key trigger was how the children were treated by their peers, not their parents. When kids consider acceptance from their peers as their primary source of fulfillment, rejection and bullying can be utterly Earth-shattering.

“The more peers matter,” says Maté, “the more children are devastated by the insensitive relating of their peers, by failing to fit in, by perceived rejection or ostracization.”

The missing element
Outside of the obvious reasons why peers make terrible parenting substitutes, the crucial element missing from peer relationships is unconditional love.

Unconditional love is the most potent force in the parent-child bond, laying the foundation for the relationship’s strength, intimacy, and influence. Without unconditional love, the parenting relationship becomes no different than any other.

Maté notes that some of today’s common disciplinary techniques can unintentionally signal to the child that parental love is only available if certain conditions are met. As an example, Maté explains how putting a child who’s throwing a tantrum into timeout can make it feel like the parent’s attention and love are merely conditional.

“Timeout withdraws your relationship from the child,” says Maté. “They learn they’re only acceptable to you if they please you. The relationship is seen as unstable and unreliable because it’s showing them you’re not available for them when they’re most upset.”

Maté says that any behavior or action by the parent that threatens to undermine the unconditional nature of the parent-child relationship can be harmful. Without the underlying trust that their parents will be there for them no matter what, a children’s primary source of safety and trust becomes a source of insecurity.

Reclaim your influence
“Our challenge as parents is to provide an invitation that’s too desirable to turn down, a loving acceptance that no peer can provide,” says Maté.

“A real relationship with kids doesn’t depend on words; it depends on the capacity to be with them,” says Maté. “Welcome their presence with your body language and energy. Express delight in the child’s very being.” And your most challenging job as a parent is to do this even when they are pushing your every button, as all kids inevitably do.

No matter how your children are behaving, consider a way to show them that they’re loved and accepted unconditionally. This may go against everything you learned from your parents but consider doing it anyway. And if you find this difficult, take Mate’s advice and think back about what you would’ve really wanted from your own parents in such a situation.

“The ultimate gift is to make a child feel invited to exist in your presence exactly as he or she is at the moment,” says Maté. “Children must know they’re wanted, special, valued, appreciated, and enjoyed. For children to fully receive this invitation, it needs to be genuine and unconditional.”

When children get this level of acceptance, they naturally desire to become closer with whomever is offering it. Rather than fearing or being threatened by their parents, children want to be with them. They want to follow them.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

If you haven’t heard of Dr. Gabor Maté, I’d like to introduce you. Maté combines the latest scientific research with his own 20 years of experience as a family physician to empower parents to earn back their children’s love and loyalty if that connection has eroded.

In numerous presentations, interviews, and the book Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, Maté explains the causes of this disconnect and describes how parents can reclaim their role as their children’s primary mentors and role models.

Maté posits that the main reason for children’s detachment is due to a growing lack of intimacy in the parent-child relationship. The foundation for parenting is centered around what developmental psychologists call an attachment relationship. An attachment relationship is based on children’s innate desire to connect with and belong to their parents.

This attachment forms the entire context for child rearing, and even the best parenting skills in the world can’t compensate for a lack of such a connection.

“The secret of parenting is not in what a parent does, but rather who the parent is to a child,” says Maté. “When a child seeks contact and closeness with us, we become empowered as a nurturer, a comforter, a guide, a model, a teacher, or a coach.” 

A relational, not a behavioral issue
As long as the child desires to stay attached—emotionally connected and close—a deep sense of psychological intimacy will naturally arise. Above all else, this bond sets the stage for the parent to be the primary source of influence over the child’s identity, values, and personality.

“People think parenting comes from their responsibility, strength, and wisdom, but it doesn’t come from that,” says Maté. “It comes from the desire of the child to belong to you.”

Children who lack this connection with their parents or primary caregivers become extremely difficult to raise and even teach. Given this, Maté stresses the fundamental goal for parents is to ensure that their children want to connect and have a close relationship with them. This does not mean just giving your children whatever they want, but instead giving them what they likely need most—more time and connection with you.

“The starting point and primary goal in all of our connections with children ought to be the relationship itself, not conduct or behavior,” notes Maté.

Kids raising kids
Children will always try to distance themselves from their parents as a natural way of exerting their independence, and parents have traditionally remained their primary source of influence. What’s changed, according to Maté, is that in recent decades, a mix of social, economic, and cultural changes have seriously eroded parents’ ability to remain the chief-orienting influence in their children’s lives.

“Children’s attachments to parents are no longer getting the support required from culture and society,” says Maté. “It’s not a lack of love or parenting know-how, but the erosion of the attachment context that makes our parenting ineffective.”

For a variety of reasons, often centered around economics, many parents are no longer able to provide the level of attention and intimacy needed for the relationship with their kids to remain healthy and strong. And because children have a deep-seated psychological need for such attachment, they seek out another source to fill this void.

“They are not manageable, teachable, or maturing because they no longer take their cues from us,” says Maté. “Instead, children are being brought up by other immature children who cannot possibly guide them to maturity.”

Dire consequences
Maté notes that it’s perfectly normal and healthy for children to have close relationships with their peers. The problem arises when these relationships supersede the ones they have with their parents.

For many children today, peers have replaced parents as the most influential force in creating the core of their personalities. When children look to other children to serve as their role models and mentors, this can have dramatic effects on their psychological development. And as we’ll see in part two, in the worst cases, can destroy the legacy parents want to build and leave for their children.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

If you’re an animal lover and have a pet of your own, you likely consider your pet to be a member of the family. And since your furry friends can provide protection, emotional support, and unconditional love, such consideration is often well deserved.

In stark contrast, the law considers your pet nothing more than personal property. That means that without plans in place, your pet will be treated just like your couch or vacuum in the event of your death or incapacity.

For example, if you die without including any provisions for your pet’s care in your estate plan and none of your family or friends volunteer to take your pet in, your faithful companion will likely end up in an animal shelter.

While you can leave money for the care or your pet in a will, there will be no continuing oversight to ensure your pet (and the money you leave for its care) will be cared for as you wish. Indeed, the person named as pet guardian in your will could drop the animal off at the shelter and use the money to buy a new TV—and face no penalties for doing so.

What’s more, a will is required to go through a court process known as probate, which can last for years and leave your pet in limbo during that entire time. And a will only goes into effect upon your death, so if you’re incapacitated by accident or illness, it will be useless for protecting your pet.

Pet trusts
Given these limitations, the best way to ensure your animal companions are properly taken care of in the event of your death or incapacity is to create a pet trust.

Pet trusts go into effect immediately and allow you to lay out detailed, legally binding rules for how the funds in the trust can be used. Pet trusts can cover multiple pets, work in cases of incapacity as well as death, and they remain in effect until the last surviving animal dies.

Here are a few of the most important things to consider when setting up a pet trust:

Caregivers: The most important decision when creating a pet trust is naming the caretaker. The caretaker will have custody of your pet and is responsible for your pet’s daily care for the remainder of your pet’s life. As with naming a guardian for your children, make certain you choose someone you know will watch over and love your pet just as you would.

Consider the caretaker’s physical ability—naming someone elderly to raise your Great Dane puppy might be asking too much. Also make certain your pet fits in with the caretaker’s family members and other pets. In case your first-choice for caretaker is unable to take in your pet, name at least one or two alternates. If you don’t know any suitable caregivers, there are a variety of charitable groups that can provide for your pet if you’re no longer able to.

Trustees: Trustees are tasked with managing the trust’s funds and ensuring your wishes for the animal’s care are carried out in the manner the trust spells out. The caretaker and the trustee may be the same person or the roles can be divided between two different people.

Caretaking instructions: You may also want to include caretaking instructions such as your pet’s basic requirements: dietary needs, exercise regimen, medications, and veterinary care. Be sure you think about all of your pet’s future needs, including extra services like grooming, boarding, and walking.

Funding: When determining how much money to put aside for your pet’s care, you should carefully consider the pet’s age, health, and care needs. Remember, you’re covering the cost of caring for the animal for the rest of its life, and even basic expenses can add up over time.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Like me, you probably spent lots of time with family and friends over the holidays. And I hope, like me, that time reminded you of just how important and special these relationships can be.

Though you might not realize it, estate planning has the potential to enhance those relationships in some major ways. Planning requires you to closely consider your relationships with family and friends—past, present, and future—like never before. Indeed, the process can be the ultimate forum for heartfelt communication, fostering a deeper bond and sense of intimacy, and prioritizing what matters most in life.

Here are just a few of the valuable ways estate planning can improve the relationships you cherish most:

1) It shows you sincerely care
Taking the time and effort to carefully plan for what will happen to you in the event of your incapacity or death is a genuine demonstration of your love. It would be far easier to do nothing and simply let you family and friends figure it out for themselves. After all, you won’t be around to deal with any of the fallout.

Planning in advance, though, shows that you truly care about the welfare of your loved ones. Such selfless concern and forethought equates to nothing less than a final expression of your unconditional love.

2) It inspires honest communication about difficult issues
Sitting down and having an honest discussion about life’s most taboo subjects—incapacity and death—is almost certain to bring you and your loved ones closer. By facing immortality together, planning has a way of highlighting what’s really important in life—and what’s not.

In fact, our clients consistently share that after going through our estate planning process they feel more connected to the people they love the most. And they also feel clearer about the lives they want to live during the fleeting time we have here on earth.

Planning offers the opportunity to talk openly about matters you may not have even considered. When it comes to choices about distributing assets and naming executors and trustees, you’ll have a chance to engage in frank discussions about why you made the choices you did. And that may just be the first step in actively addressing and healing any problems that may be lurking under the surface of your relationships.

3) It builds a deep sense of trust and respect
Whether it’s the individuals you name as your children’s legal guardians or those you nominate to handle your own end-of-life care, estate planning shows your loved ones just how much you trust and admire them. What greater honor can you bestow upon another than putting your own life and those of your children in their hands?

Though it’s often challenging to verbally express how much you love your family and friends, estate planning demonstrates your affection in a truly tangible way. And once these people see exactly how much you value them, it can foster a deepening of your relationship with one another.

4) It creates a lasting legacy
While estate planning is primarily viewed as a way to pass on your financial wealth and property, it can offer your loved ones much more than just financial security. When done right, it also lets you hand down the most precious assets of all—your life stories, lessons, and values.

In fact, the wisdom and experience you’ve gained during your lifetime are among the most treasured gifts you can give. Left to chance, these gifts are often lost forever. Considering this, our planning process includes a means of preserving and passing on these intangible assets.

We guide clients to create a customized video in which they share their most insightful memories and experiences with those they’re leaving behind. This not only ensures our clients are able to say everything that needs to be said, but that their legacy carries on long after they—and their money—are gone.

The heart of the matter
Estate planning doesn’t have to be a dreary and depressing affair. When done right, it can put your life and relationships into a much clearer focus and ultimately be a tremendously uplifting experience for everyone involved. Contact us today to learn more.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,