The 24-Hour Life Planning Stress Test

June 21, 2011

Lawyers and financial advisors understand that the demands of a medical practice are huge, both in terms of resources and time, but many of the issues your advisors encourage you to make time for and pester you to complete are actually at the core of how and why you work so hard.

Lawyers and financial advisors, like doctors, often practice most effectively when we have an opportunity to be preventative. In the best cases that’s how I get to work and help solve fears, exposures, and details that affect the lives and families of those we work with. In other cases, however, we are charged with helping to deal with a crisis that blindsides a family trying to make sense of a tragedy and make sure as many bases as possible are covered at the most stressful time in people’s lives. 

The difference a small amount of forethought makes in the lives of those affected, or the worst cases left behind by an unexpected tragedy is illustrated to your advisors on a daily basis. We understand that the demands of a medical practice are huge, both in terms of resources and time, but many of the issues your advisors encourage you to make time for and pester you to complete are actually at the core of how and why you work so hard.

One way I have asked those we counsel to address their current level of planning for any of life’s unforeseen events is to ask them to imagine they have 24 hours in which to make sure every detail they would want covered is adequately addressed. Here’s the list I start them off with, they typically add many personal details unique to their lives and goals.

1. Are you confident the estate plan you have in place is up to date and provides adequate instructions for those you leave behind? If yes, do your loved ones know where it is and who to turn to for help in implementing it?

2. Are you comfortable that the assets you are leaving behind are safely protected from your creditors, known and unknown?

3. Does your family have a professional support team in place in law, accounting, and financial advisory to help them manage what you left behind and understand its use, value and limits? Are those relationships with the kind of people you trust and want in place long after you are gone?

4. Are you and your spouse confident that your children have adequate financial education and a background that allows them to use money the way you would have wanted, or if they are minors, are you comfortable with the guardians you have appointed and their ability to help your children do so?

5. Are you happy with the assets and income you are leaving your family? Will it be adequate to support them and allow them to achieve all the dreams you had for them and have worked towards on their behalf?

6. Do you have safeguards in place that adequately replace your income if you couldn’t ever work again in 24 hours?

7. Have you taken steps to protect your family against the loss of your business and the value you built there? Do you and your partners have legal planning that defines all parties’ rights and obligations if you are suddenly out of the picture for any reason?

8. Is there anything that you already know needs to be changed in your planning but which you have not addressed because of time or resources?

9. Do you understand the costs of not making those changes while you have the chance?

10. Are there dreams that you and your spouse have the ability to realize but have never acted on because you were too busy making the money to pay for “someday”?

Some of those we counsel react negatively to this, saying that it is morbid, or frightening; I don’t think that’s accurate. I think of it as another chance to do everything you ever meant to get to the right way.

Take the chance.

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