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Why Your Estate Planning Project Must Morph into a Process


Most people think of estate planning as a one time project.  Its added to their to-do list: “Create estate plan”, “Find estate planning attorney”, or “Meeting with lawyer at 10:00 a.m on Thursday for estate plan”.  Its looked as just another task that needs to be completed so you can move onto the next one.

However, this common approach can land you in a considerable hot water.  Here’s why it’s essential to view your estate plan as a process, rather than a project.

Process v. 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.

A Project

  • 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.

A Process:

  • 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.

An estate planning attorney can help you get started and help guide you along the entire process.