In recent weeks, the US lost two major figures in the US public spotlight, Singer Aretha Franklin and Senator John McCain. They will long be remembered for their contributions to their fields for decades to come, and are both leaving behind valuable lessons in estate planning.
Aretha Franklin died with a net worth of an estimated $80 Million. What she did not have was a will. Therefore her entire estate will end up being ushered through the courts where it is likely to be subject to disputes that will drag on for years to come.
Although we know very little about John McCain’s estate plan, we can make a few assumptions. First, we can assume that Senator McCain likely had a trust which will be kept private. Second, that he was passionate about preserving his legacy because shortly after his death his family released a statement that he prepared as a farewell to the country. Politics aside, this foresight and planning is something that we can all learn from.
It is certainly important to put together an estate plan. But what is also important is being intentional and deliberate with that plan. I often recommend to clients to prepare what I call a letter of intent. Estate planning documents can often be bland, dull, legal documents. A letter of intent can be written by the person setting up the plan as a way to convey a more emotional message to their family and friends. Senator McCain certainly took this approach. I have no doubt that John McCain’s estate plan was a typical estate plan full of tax language and instructions on distribution of property. Yet, he also was very intentional with the message that he wanted to convey after death. By leaving the prepared statement for the nation, he is able to pass on values and life experiences that his legal documents may not otherwise convey.
If you are interested in setting up your estate plan, contact your local estate planning attorney for assistance.