Ball Through HoopMy bracket was busted wide open on the first weekend and the second weekend hasn't been much better. UConn Huskies? Gone in the first round. Villanova (my pick for the national champion)? They at least made it to the second weekend but lost to Baylor. So I won't be winning any bracket pools this year. Although many of us enjoy filling out our brackets each March, we often don't think how it's actually a good analogy for filling out your estate plan as well.

Filling Out Your Estate Plan

Estate planning is probably more like filling out your bracket than you think. As you begin to fill out your brackets, you are creating a plan of who you think will win. As each round progresses, you face choices of who you think will advance. This process is similar to filling out your will, except you control the seeding of all the teams and can even control the outcomes of the games.

When you are filling out your estate plan, you start at the top with who you want to get your assets first. Let's say it's your spouse, so they are your "Number 1 Seed" of your bracket. But, just in case something happens to both you and your spouse (or your spouse has died first), you may then choose your children. They are your "Number 2 Seed" for the title. But many people also want their plan to go further along, so they may also include their siblings in case their children are unable to inherit as well. So those other family members are 3, 4, 5 and so on seeds.

Hopefully, by now you can see that this analogy can be taken all the way down to the first-round play-in games if you'd like. By then, we're normally dealing with charities, your church, schools you attended, or other institutions. But just like those brackets, you can plan out your entire estate plan (and you don't have to enter into a pool with others to do it).

Watch Out For The Competition

When you are doing some brackets for your office pool, your competition is often just Henry in Human Resources, who seems to know way too much about college basketball. But who is your competition for your estate plan? It's the government.

We normally don't think of the government as our competition, but in the case of your estate plan, they are. If you don't have an estate plan, the government gets to control who the seeds are for your tournament. And instead of your chosen family members, there can be others who get into the tournament. Depending on the size of your estate, the government (through taxes) can even be a team that gets a win or two in the tournament.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

You Control The Bracket

The best part of your estate plan bracket is that you are in total control. Creating a will or trust that outlines your wishes ensures there will be no upsets. The top seeds will win and receive what they are entitled to. And in the case of some assets that are properly planned, the government won't even be able to see who the teams were and what games they played.


It may seem like I took the analogy a little too far, but creating a bracket for the annual tournament is a lot like your estate plan. And if you set it up correctly, you can control the outcomes and make sure that your team is the champion, without any upsets along the way.

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Next Steps

If your bracket has been busted and you'd like to make sure your estate plan doesn't suffer the same fate, let's set up a legal strategy session and make sure your top seed is set up to win your estate plan bracket.

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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