Trust Matters MARCH 2020
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We Make Our Own Luck Lessons From Estate Planning
As we gear up to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, there tends to be a lot of four-leaf clover images cropping up, along with talk about the “luck of the Irish.”While I can’t speak for the people of Ireland, I can say that in my experience, regular old luck doesn’t exactly work the way people want it to. In fact, the very idea can be a dangerous one. To be clear, I’m not saying that there’s no such thing as luck — everyone has their windfalls every once in a while. But if you find yourself in the right place at the right time but aren’t prepared to make the most of that moment, is that really lucky? Personally, I don’t think so, and I’m not alone. According to researchers, good fortune is less about whether or not you have it and more about what you do with it. For example, in his famous book “Great by Choice,” Jim Collins and his team of researchers examined some of the world’s biggest companies to try and suss out how much of their success could be chalked up to sheer luck. After nine years of data collection and analysis, their findings were clear. While many companies experience those windfall moments, only the companies and individuals who are best positioned to take full advantage of these “lucky breaks” enjoy lasting success. Other companies simply burn through their resources or fail to adapt once circumstances change. In a sense, you really do have to make your own luck. This is all good information for entrepreneurs to keep in mind, but what does it have to do with estate planning? Well, I’d argue everything. In my time in this industry, I’ve seen how lucky breaks can be a blessing and a curse. For example, I had a client who literally won the lottery and another who may as well have won because he found a six-figure asset in his file he didn’t even know he had. No one is going to dispute that these two individuals were very lucky. But what really set them apart from people who have been in similar situations is that they had the financial discipline to carry this good fortune forward. We hear about those lottery winners who go broke all the time — people who have never developed good fiscal strategies can burn though wealth quick. Sadly, this is also something we see often in estate planning, when beneficiaries inherit valuable assets without knowing how to use them wisely.
People buying expensive cars that will only depreciate, 20-something year olds going on month-long benders, people quitting their day job — the world of estate planning is full of cautionary tales of beneficiaries who burn through inheritances that were meant to last a lifetime. Sometimes, people choose to design plans that limit their loved ones’ access to funds or where they can be spent. This is a particularly good idea for beneficiaries who are still minors or college-aged. But in general, our firm prefers a more proactive approach.
At Keystone, part of our process is making sure your beneficiaries are ready to receive the legacy you leave behind. We can work with you
and your loved ones to strategize on building sound financial habits that will help them get the most out of what you leave to them. After all, taking care of your loved ones should never be a question of whether they get lucky.
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