If the HBO series Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that the only way to be ready for anything is to plan ahead. So, if you’ve put off creating your estate plan because the task feels overwhelming and complicated, it’s time to take a Jon Snow approach to plotting a course for the greater good.
If you have three beneficiaries, a family-owned business, a primary home plus an investment property, and an attic full of cherished heirlooms, you have some things to sort through. And if you’re unencumbered by dragons-as-dependents and your current living arrangement isn’t threatened by the White Walkers, then you’re probably in a position to reasonably tackle the estate planning process with some help from a professional.
As you consider your next strategic move for House [YOUR NAME HERE], it might help to look at estate planning lessons gleaned from Game of Thrones. Here are some things to think about:
Where there’s a will
A basic will is a good place to start. You decide who would get your stuff in the event of your passing, write it down, and sign it with a quill dipped in blood — or a good ballpoint pen works too. If your “stuff” includes an army of former slave soldiers , you’ll want to seek appropriate counsel as laws vary by state.
In addition to your stuff, you should have some written direction on who you’d like to care for your minor children – bastard or otherwise.
A matter of trust
Many may find a simple will only goes so far. Sometimes a will can lead to costly and time-consuming court proceedings (probate) for your heirs. Consider establishing a trust to make sure your children are taken care of in the future. Assets outlined in a trust may find their way to your heirs sooner than those covered in a standard will.
If Ned Stark had established a trust, it’s possible Sansa and Arya would have possessed the financial means to potentially dodge some of their tribulations and misfortunes. Of course, their separate paths and struggles are what ultimately made the sisters’ exacting revenge so satisfying. So, for the purpose of plot, we won’t fault Ned. Just don’t follow his lead in your own estate planning. You wouldn’t want your child left at the mercy of the Lannisters for years.
Prepare for the White Walkers
OK, you can’t really “prepare” for the White Walkers. When the White Walkers appeared, everyone had their own issues to contend with and then, all of a sudden, along came a legion of humanoid ice creatures looking for a tussle, and all plans were upended. Which is a bit like life. You might have your eye on the day-to-day challenges and neglect to prepare in place for the unexpected.
For that reason, it’s important to prepare for incapacity. In other words, what would happen if you no longer had the legal capacity to manage your affairs? Losing capacity may result from an injury, illness, or degenerative disease like dementia. You’ll want to seek counsel on powers of attorney and advanced medical directives. Admittedly, no one wants to think about these types of things. Just like no one wants to think about the White Walkers getting past the Wall.
Keep your estate plan current
One minute you’re the presumed bastard son of Ned Stark, the next you’re the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. But before you can fully know your identity, you unwittingly fall in love with a powerful woman who turns out to be your aunt. And there’s a war going on. That’s all to say life gets complicated.
Even if you’re not Jon Snow, your life may come with its own set of ups and downs, good and bad. Marriage, the birth of children, career changes and job loss, divorce, remarriage, resurrections from the dead, and everything else along the way. To that end, it’s a good idea to make periodic reviews of your estate plan.
For a cavalcade of even more useful tips on estate planning, please check out this guide created by Transamerica’s Advanced Markets team. And if you’re still putting off this important task, just know the White Walkers have breached the Wall. Winter is here. It’s time to make your plan of action.
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Neither Transamerica nor its agents or representatives may provide tax, investment, or legal advice. Anyone to whom this material is promoted, marketed, or recommended should consult with and rely on their own independent tax and legal advisors and financial professional regarding their particular situation and the concepts presented herein.
Things to Consider:
- For estate planning (outside of the Seven Kingdoms), a basic will may be a good place to start.
- Consider establishing a trust to protect your heirs from costly and time-consuming court proceedings over your estate.
- Prepare for losing the legal capacity to manage your own affairs. Seek counsel on powers of attorney and advanced medical directives.
- Life happens. Stay current with your estate plan as your life takes on new dimensions.