How in the world does ice cream and estate planning end up in the same post – is probably what you are thinking?
Ice cream is not just kids’ play. The treat has national recognition on a grand scale. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed July as National Ice Cream Month and established National Ice Cream Day as the third Sunday in the month of July.
There are varieties of ice cream suitable for all palates, budgets, and dietary concerns. How many flavors of ice cream do you like? Do you have a favorite brand that churns out the best concoctions ever? One thing is certain, young and old alike enjoy ice cream.
A few years ago, at a seminar, one of the presenters was an experienced estate planning attorney. To illustrate a point, the presenter shared some details about an estate plan he was developing for a client. The client was a married man with a wife and two children. The presenter referred to the client’s estate plan as “plain vanilla.”
From that moment on, I have been fascinated by the “plain vanilla” phrase and how it can be used to make the thought of estate planning easier to handle. As an ice cream lover, a few scoops of my favorite flavors come to mind: vanilla, strawberry and chocolate.
Which flavor fits your life and legacy?
- Vanilla: minimal, straightforward, plain
- Strawberry: fruity, cheery, vibrant
- Chocolate: intricate, multilayered, bold
Now add toppings (candy sprinkles, nuts and caramel syrup). The more you add to the ice cream, the flavor starts to change:
- Multi marriages
- Special needs
- Substance abuse in heirs
- Serious health issues
- Pets as beneficiaries
- Charities as beneficiaries
- Large debts
- Valuable assets
- Missing heirs
- Non- US Citizen spouse
- Unequal inheritances for children
- Business ownership
Remember, the “plain vanilla” description and the other flavors are only for illustrative purposes.
Estate planning is not – one size fits all. However, these basic items should be in your estate plan: Will, Financial Power of Attorney, Advance Medical Directive (with Living Will), and Up to-date beneficiary designations on accounts and insurance.
Depending on your wishes, other estate planning items (trusts, deeds and other documents) may be needed.
Next time you are invited to an ice cream social or visit your favorite ice cream shop, think about the flavors and what they mean when it comes to estate planning. Enjoy a scoop of your favorite flavor and get busy planning.
The information in this post is intended for informational purposes only and not to provide legal advice. Consult with an estate planning attorney about your particular situation.
Aquanetta J. Betts is an attorney and speaker. She is licensed in Washington D.C., and Maryland. Her practice focuses on the areas of wills, trusts, estates and planned giving. Connect with her on Twitter @AquanettaBetts.
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