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Estate Planning: From the Other Side of the Desk

We make our living by helping others achieve peace through estate planning. We work hard to make the process as smooth and painless as possible. We know how hard these decisions can be, as we too have to make them for our family. There are perks to doing this for a living; It gives us great ideas on how to be creative with our giving, and we know how to make a plan that will be as seamless as possible for our families. Clients often share the relief they feel upon completion of their plan. Oddly enough, even with our experience and expertise, each time we update our will it still feels heavy until it’s done.

Planning for the kids is the most difficult part of the process. It is painful to consider a world where we are not an integral part of the daily routine of raising our own kids. No one knows them as well or can possibly love them to the depths we do; after all, they’re ours. They are our pride and joy, and we want to walk with them through their accomplishments and trials for as long as we can. Planning for a scenario where that time ends before they even graduate high school is heart wrenching to consider. Listing names for alternative parents never seems adequate; no matter how much we love those people we have listed.

Intertwined in this conversation is always a life insurance discussion. If one of us passes, does the other have enough to grieve and begin thriving again? We talk over our vision for our kids in the case of such an event. How much would we want to work, what would we need as a parent to function alone i.e., transportation, bed time routine (we currently have four toddlers), resources we know that would help our kids process their parent’s death, and how to prepare for their college. These are heavy conversations. We ALWAYS end this portion of the planning with the same final verdict: WE CAN’T DIE YET!

This process of planning for our kids always reminds me of the scene in the movie Kung Fu Panda where Master Oogway and Master Shifu debate the level of control we have in our lives (you can see the full clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLpUev1FvS0). I love this scene as it beautifully captures my own wrestling matches with the topic. Master Oogway encourages Master Shifu to let go of this illusion of control; suggesting that he is overestimating his ability to control events. Oogway uses the example of a peach tree; “you cannot make it blossom before it is time.” I relate much to Master Shifu and his rebuttal, “but I can decide when the fruit falls and I can choose where to plant the seed.” Wisely, Master Oogway contends “yes, but it will always be a peach.”

My wrestling match is I want the fairy tale version: I want my husband and I to live into our old age and pass away peacefully after getting to know generations of our grandchildren and great grandchildren. However, I am not in control of when I die, but I am able to help my family in some very practical ways.

So faithfully we draft our estate plan with the best possible solutions we have in the case of the worst case scenario, while hoping and praying that we will need to do many more revisions before the plan is ever executed. Honestly, I would rather have these hard conversations many times over than imagine a scenario where the worst case happens and my babies don’t have a refuge prepared. I imagine this is the relief our clients claim they have found. There is peace in knowing you have done what you can to make the best of a tragic situation.

Planning allows many of my fears to take a back seat. I don’t have to keep replaying the what-ifs. I have faced those obstacles and made the best plan I could. I can now move on and live life a little lighter because I know my babies are protected. While the depth of my love for my spouse and our boys will always make me vulnerable to loss, my load is lifted in knowing that we have done what is in our control and the rest is left trusting in the One who holds it all.

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