A Quick Sidebar Re George Steinbrenner & the Estate Tax

As many of you know, I was an estate planning lawyer for almost ten years and today one of my businesses trains estate planning lawyers on a new way of being with their clients.

So, I can’t help but post something about George Steinbrenner’s death and all this talk about how his family saved $600 million because he died in 2010, a year when we have no estate tax.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read about the estate tax and what Congress is doing about it.

What I want to make sure everyone knows is that:

1. Estate Planning is about so much more than estate tax – in years like this, that message can get lost.

Very few families will ever be subject to estate tax no matter what Congress does with it, but every single one of you has parents who love you and many of you have kids who love you and if you love them too and want things to be as easy as possible for them, you do estate planning.

No matter what. Even if you only have a bank account and a car. Look around you – everything around you right now (including everything right here on your computer) is part of your estate and if you don’t plan for it in advance, you are leaving your family with a big mess to deal with.

That’s just not right.

And, of course, if you have kids – name guardians, make sure they are taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want. Don’t leave it up to a Court to decide who that is.

Last, don’t for a minute think estate planning is just about your financial assets – it’s not.  It’s about passing on the story of your life, who you are, and what’s important to you.  Your values, insights, stories and experiences, aren’t they worth so much more than your money?

Of course they are, so what are you waiting for?  Talk to a Personal Family Lawyer about passing on what really matters.

2. If you do have a large estate, plan for future generations when there will be an estate tax

Yes, it’s true that if a multi-millionaire or billionaire dies this year, there is no estate tax.  But, what about future generations?

Our current “normal” method of passing on financial wealth simply to avoid estate tax in the estate of the wealth builder incentivizes future generations to squander it.

If, instead, we started to think about estate planning not as just a mere way to avoid estate tax, but as a way to encourage and incentivize wealth building from one generation to the next, we could eradicate the shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations phenomenon that is common in every culture.

I hope that Steinbrenner planned for the passage of his wealth in such a way that his assets will not only not be subject to estate tax now, but will stay out of his kids’ estates as well.

And that he established his plan so that each generation has a stake in the growth of their wealth, that they will be taught to do good with it and make a difference.

Whether George did these things or not, it’s too late for him, but it’s not for you.

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