Most, if not all, people put their estate plan on their to-do list as a one-time project: “Create estate plan” or “Meeting with lawyer 10:30 a.m. Thursday for estate plan.”
Thinking of your estate plan as a single project or task to complete and move off your list is a common approach – but it’s also an approach that can land you in considerable hot water. Here’s why it’s essential to view your estate plan as a process, rather than a project.
Process vs. Project: What’s the Difference?
A project that takes several steps to complete – like an estate plan – can seem like it’s a “process” already. First, I need to call the lawyer. Then, I need to make time to attend the appointment. Before that, I need to get together these documents….
In fact, a project doesn’t become a process simply because it takes time and effort to complete. Here are some of the key differences between a project and a process.
- Seeks to create something new or implement a single, concrete change.
- Requires leadership to plan and execute.
- Can have its plans or goals changed on short notice.
- Creates value by returning to the same task many times.
- Requires management to ensure the process is consistent and produces expected results.
- Can be changed only by launching a project with a goal to change the process.
Estate Planning as Process
When you’re creating a new estate plan, it’s natural to see that plan as a project. You’re creating something new when you work with a team to implement your plan. You create a positive change in your life by having an estate plan from not having one. And, you’re right. Setting up a trust or implementing your first estate plan certainly qualifies as a project.
But, the goal of the estate plan “project,” however, should transition into an estate planning process by which you check, evaluate, and update your will, trust, and other legal documents regularly – perhaps once a year, but certainly every time you hit a major life milestone, like the birth of child or grandchild, death of family member, divorce, marriage, significant change in assets or income, and the like. When your estate planning is viewed as a lifelong process, your plan is much more likely to serve your family’s needs, whatever they may be, when the time comes simply because you’ve been managing it proactively with each change in your circumstances.
We can help you get started with estate planning and are here to guide you along the entire process. Let us become your ally in managing the process and in ensuring that you and your family gain maximum value from returning to it on a proper schedule.