As an attorney, I'm required to attend a certain number of continuing legal education seminars each year to stay in good standing with state bar. This year I attended the Notre Dame Tax and Estate Planning Institute. Two days of Wills and Thrills.
Most of the seminars were the usual updates on current tax trends and cutting-edge planning techniques. The speakers did their best to make what can be some pretty boring subjects interesting. However, one speaker in particular went above and beyond.
The speaker was a professor from Texas, and he made the two hours I spent with him fly by. His lecture was filled with anecdotes and strange but true cases. At one point, he told the story of a client, who was discussing her son. During the conversation she said "He's 50. I guess this is who he is going to be." It sounded pretty absurd and we all laughed. I even wrote it down in my notes.
It was on my way home that I really thought about what she said. Although I'm still a couple of years short of 50, I'm going to be there sooner than later. I started thinking about the plans and dreams that I had when I was graduating from law school. I was going to practice law a few years and make enough money so that I could then become a park ranger. I know what you're thinking, but at the time it seemed really important. I even went out and bought myself a good pair of Asolo hiking boots just to be ready. I still have them by the way.
From the time I graduated, life got in the way. I fell in love and got married. I had children and got a dog. I'm a husband, father, son, brother, attorney and a soccer coach. What I'm not is a park ranger.
I guess what I 'm trying to explain is that our lives go through cycles and our estate planning needs change with them. When you're young, estate planning is probably the last thing on your mind. Then kids arrive and you start worrying about what would happen to them if you aren't there so you pick a guardian.
Your kids get older and you start worrying about their education. You also realize the guardians you named are kind of a knuckleheads so you think about replacing them. Then you wake up and you're 50 and you realize this is who you are going to be. Even when the kids are gone, this is who you are and your estate plan can finally settle down.
The moral of the story is our lives change but at some point, we are what we are. I remember a friend's father telling me once that "people don't change." I don't think that is true while we are young but at some point, he's right; people don't change.
It's at that point you can settle on a permanent plan and be confident it is going to take you to the end of your days. Sure it may need to be "tweaked" here and there, but for the most part it should take care of you while you are thinking about all the things you were going to do and but never quite did.
It may also give you the peace of mind to look back on the things you did accomplish and smile. I bet if you think about it, you were probably a lot more awesome than you give yourself credit for.