It is difficult for any attorney, accountant, insurance agent or investment advisor to warn people about overpreparing for the future. So many people have not prepared for their personal, financial, professional and medical futures that it can seem like everyone has the room for more planning, particularly more detailed planning.
With that being said, the problem with super-detailed planning is that any slight change in circumstances can make the plan obsolete or ineffective.
One of my mentors, Dr. Jan Osborn, has always echoed advice that my Dad has given me: regardless of current circumstances, things will change.
It can be hard to see a future that is different from the present. Sometimes, seeing a brighter future than our current circumstance can seem presumptuous. Dreaming about a rosy future can bother us if it leads to future letdowns when the rosy future does not materialize. Conversely, no one wants to be a “Debbie Downer” or “Negative Nancy” who never appreciates a present good circumstance because “bad times are on the horizon.”
The incredible need to plan for our personal, financial, professional, medical and family-related futures needs to be balanced with a recognition that the future will not be the same as the present, even if our instinct is to see a future identical to the present.
People can and should undertake estate, business and long-term-care planning as a matter of basic responsibility. The challenges arise when those plans are so dependent upon current circumstances that any change in circumstance requires a change in the plan.
An entrepreneur came to me a while back asking to organize an LLC for his business. He wanted a detailed operational plan that had many components and attributes individualized to his preferences based upon a presumption that the entrepreneur (with his own mix of strengths and weaknesses) would always run the business.
However, that entrepreneur also informed me that the entrepreneur hoped to imminently sell the business or implement a succession plan to allow the entrepreneur to retire within 18 months. That entrepreneur certainly could use a business structure and plan, but overdoing it with a very detailed plan mirroring all of the entrepreneur’s eccentricities would have ultimately caused more harm than good.
Over-planning can happen in the context of estate planning, too. I have a friend with a dozen pets. In my friend’s will, each pet is to go to a certain relative upon my friend’s death. However, if pet #8 (a cat named “Fluffy,” if I remember correctly) gets sick, the intended recipient will necessarily be removed from the will due to that relative’s inability to handle a sick pet. Of course, weeks later, when Fluffy recovers, my friend’s will will need to be changed back. Depending upon the pace of the pets’ sicknesses and recoveries, this might not be over-planning. However, weekly or monthly changes to estate plans definitely reflect over-planning.
Planning and preparation are good. However, it is crucial to recognize that things will almost certainly be different when any plan is ultimately relied upon.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.