Estate Planning: Start With ‘Why’

Trust beneficiaries are sometimes left to wonder why a decedent instructed that a trust distribution be made in a  particular way.

The trust clearly identified who the beneficiaries were, what they were to receive and how they were to receive. But unfortunately, the trust was silent as to the “why” of the distribution — the underlying reason and purpose for creating the trust in the first place.

Not clearly setting forth intention or purpose in one’s estate plan can lead to misunderstanding, confusion, hurt feelings, potential law suits and disruption of family relationships.

In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek explains it this way: The “what, when and how to do” come from our neocortex, the part of the brain that contains the language center. The intentional and emotional purpose-driven “why” comes from the limbic area of the brain, which deals with emotions and memory. That area of the brain has no capacity for language, which is why writing out the purpose, emotion and intention is difficult. Most of what we do is driven by clear intention and purpose, so it is important to put effort into writing out our intentions and purpose.

Keep in mind that your estate plan is intended to be your last say, so the “why” must be expressed as the foundation for the plan.

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