Saturday, January 5, 2008

Estate Planning

Fear of death is a major concern for almost all people; that's understandable. But trust us when we say that the optimal course of action lies not in ignoring its possibility - sorry, certainty! - but in planning for it.

Sadly, there is an aversion, particularly among Asians, toward estate planning. This reluctance arises out of an often palpable dread that revolves around the issue of 'tempting fate' . The unspoken concern is that the mere act of employing estate planning tools like a Will or a Trust catapults the 'presumptuous tempter' closer to the grave! Unfortunately, such thinking often leads to devastating problems for those left behind.

Barring supernatural intervention, death will come to each of us. But hopefully not before we have had the opportunity to make our lives count for something bigger than ourselves. The desire to leave a lasting legacy is universal. And, ironically - given the fear that's sometimes associated with it - writing a Will is the best way to make sure the legacy you want to leave to your heirs is the one they actually inherit.

Clearly, writing a Will is the most considerate, responsible thing you can do for them now, while you are still of sound mind and body.

The organisation and planning required to prepare a Will may seem daunting and not terribly urgent. But failure to arrange your affairs well today may cause costly, painful losses to those you leave behind tomorrow.

You see, most of us tend to carry much of our personal information around in our head. We seldom disclose it to our family in a comprehensive manner, often assuming we'll eventually get around to it. Sometimes we don't.

If you were to pass on beyond the veil without getting around to doing so, your loved ones will be left in the lurch struggling to sort out your personal affairs. For instance, some questions they may have no way of answering will be:

- Did you own a life insurance policy, pension or annuity? Where are the documents stored?
- Did you have money invested in stocks, bonds or unit trusts? Where are the records?
- Who is the best person to look after your kids?
- Who will oversee the distribution of your estate?
- Who should get what exactly?

Estate planning, done well, guarantees that those you leave behind get to focus on grieving for you without the unnecessary distractions represented by such questions. And when estate planning is done competently, it boils down to a methodical process of planning for the accumulation, preservation, and then distribution of your estate according to your wishes. As mentioned, the tools you will use are a Will, definitely, and a Trust, perhaps.