A couple of years ago I recently came across an excellent short article by Charlie Douglas. The key point of his article is that society (particularly those of us in the business of financial and estate planning) needs to do a much better job of defining “estate planning“. He contends that the lack of a workable and consistent definition contributes to confusion among the public and that in turn explains a lower engagement or participation level by the public in estate planning.
He suggests the following definition for “estate planning”:
A multidisciplinary process where planning professionals are collaboratively engaged in protecting, preserving and enhancing the family through the accumulation, conservation and distribution of one’s assets and values.
I agree with his contention and I like his definition. Estate planning is much more than documenting how you want to distribute your earthly possessions at your death. Mr. Douglas is also correct in observing that estate planning is not the same as financial planning, but it is rather a subset of it. Estate planning cannot be accomplished without the lawyer knowing and understanding the basics of the client’s financial holdings and financial plan. A quality estate plan will only come into being when the lawyer and the financial adviser collaborate in the development and implementation of the client’s estate plan.