At some point you’ve been to a Marshalls, a Target, a Kohl’s, or wherever you prefer to shop, and you picked up an item, be it from the clearance section, the floor, or thrown behind a box of shoes, you knew it was going home with you that day! Despite missing a button, a zipper, maybe even a bit dingy, you found it to be absolutely perfect! You knew exactly what you’d do, you had the perfect button, the stain remover, the perfect complimentary piece, making that item even more valuable to you. You knew it was a bit a stretch, but you even believed that this item was hidden just for you. In fact, it had been out of circulation for so long, it didn’t even have a tag on it. You had no clue how much it would cost you, but you were willing to walk the walk, talk the talk, and make the item officially yours. You get to the register, the cashier takes the item from you, and the first thing she does is try to assess the value of the item you’ve presented. She searches the computer using the item number, or maybe calls a colleague to find a comp. Either way, before you leave that store with your perfectly imperfect item, someone will put a tag on it. You may argue a bit like I would, point out the missing button, show the stain, or highlight the flaws that made someone stuff if behind a shoe box; but you’ll eventually pay a negotiated price, or you’ll walk away without it. Here’s the deal, even the dingy item behind the shoe box gets a tag. That’s the important take away!
One misconception I’ve encountered in various communities around the country, is that estate planning is for the wealthy. Some believe that estate plans are for those with a significant amount of assets, perhaps those with young children, those with an impressive portfolio to protect, those nearing retirement, perhaps those expecting death?…. In other words, they don’t think the shirt stuffed behind the shoe box even needs a tag. Different folks have different tales. I have one piece of advice and three questions for the people I just described. First, it’s important that you know, there is a 100% chance of each of us dying. Just think about that for a second. End of advice. Now, I must ask. Aren’t your wishes valuable? Aren’t your children impressive? Do you think a disinterested third party would give your valuables, loved ones, or wishes a fair assessment? I guess it depends on what it’s worth to you. As far as I’m concerned, whatever your circumstances, whether you are rich, poor, boss, small or large and in charge, it doesn’t matter what you have. What matters is what it’s worth to you.
So why should you put a tag on the things that matter to you? Because if you don’t, someone else will! A bargain hunter is more likely to point out all the flaws, and the value you’ve assigned (in most cases only in your mind) is less likely to be protected. Do you think I have ever tried to negotiate the price of a brand-new blazer at Target? (I am totally addicted to blazers by the way…) Absolutely not! I already know Target is not having it. Would you? Case and point. No matter what you hold near and dear, it deserves a tag, if only to put the rest of the world on notice, that this item, this person, this belief, is worth X, Y or Z. After all, no one can read your mind. If it’s valuable, you’ll want to put [a] TAG on it!
Not sure where to start? I got you covered!
Here are a few Soraya style examples of commonly used TAGs:
Personal autonomy TAGs
- Trusts – There are several trust options available to families who choose to take the initiative to put a tag on their valuables. In most cases, their wishes and legacy remain protected. A trust can be created by or for someone who is alive, or by will after their death. A trust-based estate plan, while not appropriate for everyone, can be beneficial, because any assets gifted to the trust, belong to the trust. Why in the world is that beneficial? So glad you asked! Unlike a will, a trust can protect your wishes and your valuables if you become incapacitated. In case you did not know, a will is only useful after you die. If you are unable to manage your affairs or direct someone else to manage them for you, your family will face some challenges when trying to help you. Additionally, trust-based planning may help you minimize federal estate taxes, avoid a tag assigned by the probate process, protect the little bit you have left from your greedy ex-wife, expand your long-term care options, protect your hard-earned assets from your irresponsible son’s creditors… there are a number of benefits.
- Powers of attorney – Several documents fall under this umbrella, including the non-durable power of attorney, durable power of attorney, special or limited power of attorney, medical power of attorney, etc. These documents are important no matter who you are because they allow you to appoint someone to manage financial and other affairs. If you are unable to manage or direct others to manage your affairs, it having the right documents makes it easier for your loved ones to take care of your business. Collectively, they can also serve as your personal autonomy tags. With proper planning, you can decide how your business is handled, and who gets to handle it if you are incapable of doing it yourself. Most importantly, the person you choose can step-in and ensure continued and orderly management of family and business affairs, without the costly and often time-consuming guardianship process. Do you want to maintain your personal autonomy? You should consider putting [a] TAG on it!
- Advance Medical Directives – A number of documents fall under the advance medical directives umbrella, including the living will, durable power of attorney for health care / health care power of attorney, “Do Not Resuscitate” orders, Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, etc. These documents are important no matter who you are because they ensure a person’s wishes are protected if medical issues arise, making them incapacitated. Collectively, they are your healthcare tag. If you are unable to communicate your wishes, they serve as roadmaps for your loved ones, care-takers, and healthcare professionals. Do you want life sustaining treatments until all your resources are exhausted? Do you want the good Lord to decide your fate without human or technological interference? If your wishes matter, you should consider putting [a] TAG on it!
Suggested Retail TAGs
- Wills – Last but certainly not least, and the most popular estate planning tag. I like to refer to wills as your suggested retail price tag, because wills are subject to the probate process. In many cases, (not so much if we are talking about the elderly or families with special needs), a will-based estate plan is sufficient, and will provide adequate protection for your loved ones. When properly drafted to meet your specific needs, wills can serve as effective asset distribution tools and roadmaps after your death. On the flip side, they can be challenged, they can be invalidated in whole or in part, or contested by long lost cousins. Like the retailer, the probate process could produce a brand-new tag. Sometimes, it may be a tag that doesn’t even match-up to the suggested retail tag, aka your will. Do you want to protect your valuables with a solid will-based estate plan designed just for your family? Don’t try to do it with a cookie cutter template, don’t google it, don’t legal zoom it, consider putting [your] TAG on it!
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
Alan Lakein, American author and Time Management Expert.
When it comes to your family, your assets, your wishes, your legacy, and your personal autonomy, no one can assess value as well as you can. it’s up to you to tell the world what each mean to you. Put [a] TAG on it!