Photo of a Football that could be used in the big gameIt's that time of year when the Super Bowl is over and we're all debating whether the Monday after the Super Bowl should be turned into a holiday in the United States as everyone recuperates from an evening watching the game. This year's game came down to the last minute and I'm sure many folks were up pretty late celebrating the Chiefs' final-minute win.

As in the past, as I was watching the game, I was thinking about what lessons from the game you could also use when thinking about creating an estate plan for you and your family. Many families gather to watch the game, much as they do at the holidays as well, and there can be many interesting conversations that arise as you are watching the game.

Two lessons that came to mind while watching this year's game are the importance of having a plan and also the important part that timing plays in the creation of your estate plan documents. The Chiefs came out on top after clearly altering their plan at half-time when things weren't working and they took advantage of the second half to come back and win the game. And if you watched the last couple of minutes of the game, you also saw the importance of timing as Kansas City made sure to use up as much clock as possible before kicking the game-winning field goal so they left only :08 on the clock when kicking off to the Eagles.

Have a Plan

After a long season and various rounds of the playoffs, the two teams remaining in the Super Bowl are likely never the "luckiest" teams from the season. Instead, as with this year, they are two of the best teams who have strong coaches and focus on a plan for each game and execute their game plans each week. This year's teams, the Chiefs and the Eagles, also have the best records in their respective conferences and won their conference championship games.

One thing you'll likely find behind the success is, of course, having a plan and executing it. It's why those head coaches and their assistant coaches have those large cards with all their various plays 

For many clients, they have in their minds an idea of what they'd like to have happen to their assets after they are gone. Commonly, they've had conversations with their family about what they would like to have happen, but they never get around to actually putting their plans down on papers.

No matter how many conversations you have at the holiday dinner table, those conversations are not a substitute for having a written estate plan. Even if everyone in your family understands your wishes, if they aren't written down properly, it will still require your family to go to court after you're gone and go through the probate court process to effectuate your plans.

If you've got children, this process can be especially fraught with problems because there's no clear plan for your children if you don't have an estate plan. This could leave your children in a bit of limbo while the court process plays out to confirm who will take care of them and their money going forward. So, just like the teams in the Super Bowl, talking about your plans is a good first step, but you need to have them written down.

How Long Does An Estate Plan Take?

Unlike a football game, there normally isn't a countdown clock set for your estate planning process. If you are planning an upcoming trip or an upcoming medical procedure, you may have a time crunch that you are dealing with to make sure it gets done. In those situations, it's important that your attorney knows of the upcoming deadlines you are working against.

One way that the time periods may often match up is in the period between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. In the NFL, there are two weeks between the championship games and the Super Bowl. When you are creating an estate plan, two weeks can be a reasonable time period for you to work on your plan and get it ready to sign.

When I work with clients, I always explain that your estate planning process timing is often up to the client. If it needs to be done quickly, it can be done. When you need more time to get all of the documents completed and reviewed, you can also spend more time on your documents. I'm a big supporter of this approach as it is important that you understand your documents and what you are signing. I always prefer my clients take the extra time if needed to put together an estate plan they understand before they sign their documents. You'd be surprised how many clients come to me with an old estate plan from years ago that they signed but never really understood.

Do You Need an Estate Plan?

If you don't already have an estate plan, or if you have one that needs to be updated, let's schedule a Legal Strategy Session online or by calling my Edina, Minnesota office at (612) 294-6982 or my New York City office at (646) 847-3560. My office will be happy to find a convenient time for us to have a phone call to review the best options and next steps for you to work with an estate planning attorney to get your estate plan prepared.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.
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