West Hunsaker 2013-08-23 00:25:38
What Circumstances Do You Plan For? How many times have you heard the phrase, “The only constant in life is change”? When our lives change, so do the circumstances surrounding our lives…and that change can happen in an instant. My wife and I recently took a trip back east to New York and New Jersey. Part of the trip was at the request of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a charity that I have been blessed to work with for several years now. This trip was an effort to observe an estate planning event hosted by the New Jersey chapter. This event was held at a castle that was built for the Wish Kids and their families by using private donations. It is truly a beautiful and amazing facility. In this estate planning event details were given about how people can use their estate planning to make contributions to charities just like the Make- A-Wish Foundation. It was an inspiring and touching event. During the event, I was incredibly moved by the countless stories of inspiration and love that these sweet children showered upon those they met. There have been dramatic changes in their life, but their spirit and courage shine through. I also noticed a significant trend from the parents‘ comments. I continually heard phrases like, “Everything was fine until…” or “All of a sudden, everything came crashing down.” Along with the enormous emotional rollercoaster, the family is faced with an entirely new set of challenges. Challenges they did not want nor plan for, but nonetheless, challenges that were now theirs. Their lives changed in an instant. After this event concluded, we traveled to New York City. I had worked in New York City for several years, prior to becoming an attorney with Morris, Hall & Kinghorn, and the city has been dear to my heart ever since. A number of things had changed since last I was there, but the most significant was the creation of the 9/11 Memorial. Viewing the memorial was a very solemn experience. The memorial consists of two massive collection ponds, which create giant voids where each of the towers once stood. Surrounding each pond are the names of the people who lost their lives that day. Our tour guide was a survivor that had been working on the 82nd floor of the first tower. One comment our tour guide made really struck me. He said, “All of us started that day like any other day.” It struck me again how quickly change can occur. On September 11, 2001, what began as a normal day ended with nearly 3,000 families losing a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. This was something that none of them had expected or planned for, but it happened. I have pondered recently the very many paths our lives can go. I often think of the John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Life can change so quickly, and we can find ourselves facing a whole new set of circumstances, moving in a completely different direction. Because I am an estate planning attorney, this strikes me as especially important and relevant. I am responsible for ensuring that my clients’ estate is protected against a whole myriad possibilities...many of which they may never face. In fact, as I was signing a living trust with a client a few days back, he asked why our trusts are so thick. My simple reply was that we try to consider not only what you and your beneficiaries are facing today, but also to have planning in place to cover possible situations that may occur in the future. Most living trusts are designed to avoid the cost and headache of probate after a death. Additionally, a trust generally allows the clients to identify their beneficiaries and determine how the assets will be distributed upon their death. While those protections are very important in a living trust, there is so much more that can and should be done. In fact, the more I get to know my clients, the more I realize how many various concerns they have. I will say, however, that the most prevalent desire of our clients is usually to help and protect their beneficiaries as much as possible. They want to protect them from the types of events that are unwanted and unexpected, like the situations we address in their estate planning. Everyone’s life is different, and as such, no estate plan should be the same. Every plan should be carefully catered to match the client’s circumstances, plans and hopes for the future. Estate planning attorneys must ensure that the trust created is flexible enough to adapt to the changes, needs and challenges of the clients and their beneficiaries. The documents should go beyond avoiding probate; they should protect the assets from ex-spouses, creditors, Medicaid spend-down, long-term care expenses, law suits and more. Your life can change in a day, so plan today for the storms ahead. West Hunsaker earned his bachelor’s degree from Western International University, graduating cum laude. After working as an executive in the banking field, Hunsaker decided to pursue a law degree. He then attended Phoenix School of Law where he obtained his Juris Doctor and was admitted to the Arizona Bar Association and Maricopa Bar Association. He also serves on the National Make-A-Wish Planned Giving Advisory Council.
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