Three problems with planning to leave nothing

Some people believe that they don’t need an estate plan, because they don’t plan to leave anything behind. That approach carries some side effects that warrant consideration.

First, it implies a lack of financial planning, which creates the potential to outlive one’s savings. As life expectancies increase, the amount one needs to save for retirement increases as well. Otherwise, the quality of life may plummet sharply when savings dwindle.

Conversely, there remains a potential to leave an amount with no estate plan in place at all. That means foregoing the chance to prepare the next generation to receive those assets and handle them appropriately. It also means foregoing the opportunity to manage how the assets will be transferred, how they will be received (and either preserved or dissipated), and whether any strategies to mitigate costs or taxes will be implemented.

Perhaps more troubling, it marks an indifference to one’s own legacy. Estate planning includes the opportunity to inform younger generations about family values, including those of financial responsibility and stewardship, and to prepare the beneficiaries to actually receive and carry their share of it. Legacy means more than just property; it includes the experiences and values collected through life that can be instilled in and passed to others. Refusing the opportunity to do so condemns the next generation to lose out on such wisdom, and to find it by chance or not at all.

This does not mean formulating an estate plan to transfer assets blindly or without thought. Rather, it means providing the best chance to preserve something meaningful for one’s family and beneficiaries.