Pumpkins for HalloweenHalloween is here (my kids have been looking forward to this for months) and we've got a busy day ahead. I'm sure they will have lots of fun at school today, but I doubt they are teaching much estate planning today. In the past, I've had estate planning signings on Halloween, and sometimes the clients even dress up for the occasion to add a little bit of festiveness to the atmosphere. Admittedly, an estate planning signing is not the biggest party you'll ever attend (although I have in the past done estate planning "parties" for clients where we sign 4 or 5 plans all at once while the kids play together and the adults get to socialize).

But since today is Halloween, we have a good lesson of "Trick or Treat" - which can also apply to your estate plan (or lack of one). So for Halloween, you can think of your family as the trick or treaters coming to your house for candy. You've got two options for them:

  1. Trick - Leaving no estate plan
  2. Treat - A well-planned estate plan

In the end, it's your legacy, you can choose which to leave them. But my clients always opt for the treat.

Halloween Estate Planning - Giving Your Family the Trick

Growing up, you never expected the adult who answered the door at the house to opt for the "trick" when you went Trick or Treating. We were always there for the treats and didn't always have a trick lined up. So when that random adult told us they didn't have candy, it was time for a trick.

If you choose not to do an estate plan (or do one when you are young and never update it), you are like the adult at the house who has no candy. Chances are that your loved ones are anticipating some kind of inheritance if something were to happen to you. In fact, many adult children specifically plan their estate plan with their prospective inheritance considered so that their family's legacy can be protected. 

Without an estate plan, your legacy is left to the local legislators in your state who have decided how they believe your assets should be divided up. For some, they are ok with the division under their laws (usually single people with siblings who will inherit their assets). But remember, without an estate plan, you are still leaving your family members with the trick of figuring out how to probate your estate - they will need to go through court filings and pay court filing fees. You didn't think your legislators would create an estate plan for you without making sure the government got its cut, did you? And for even the most financially savvy family members, navigating the court system can be a headache worse than the crash the morning after Halloween when you've eaten too much candy.

Halloween Estate Planning - Everyone Prefers a Treat

Instead of being that house that has no candy, you want to be the warm, welcoming house for the neighborhood children. The house with the best candy (my kids already have planned their route to that house this year), the one everyone wants to visit.

With an estate plan, you can ensure that your legacy is protected and your family is given the "treat" of not having to get bogged down in court proceedings. You can use a variety of estate planning tools like trusts and beneficiary designations to make sure that everyone is receiving your legacy in the way you intended, without having to deal with a lot of court proceedings. You can even opt for informal probate in some states, which makes the process easy and simple for your family to sort out. With an estate plan, you can also make sure you are appointing the right person to act as the personal representative for your estate so that you know that things will be taken care of by the right person.

There's no reason to leave behind a surprise for your loved ones that they have to sort out your affairs without an estate plan. It's Halloween today, so you should be out celebrating that, but it also means there are 2 months left in the year, which should be plenty of time to get an estate plan created for you and your family's legacy.

Next Steps

If you're ready to get started with an estate plan, or if you need to update an older estate plan, let's set up a Legal Strategy Session to discuss the best options for you and your family. There's no need to be the house that everyone avoids on Halloween, you want to be the fun house with all the candy!


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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