You’re Probably Never Going to Die, but …

A man’s dying is more
the survivors’ affair than his own.

—Thomas Mann
Author, The Magic Mountain

Many clients come to us after they’ve survived a heart attack, stroke, or illness. They knew they were going to die someday, but that wakeup call made the prospect of their death real to them.

Or maybe it made the prospect of their families having to go on without them real. Often these men and women realize that their heirs are not prepared for them to die.

Advisors who raise the problem of unprepared heirs to clients—or even the need to draw up proper estate plans—routinely meet resistance. One attorney we know tells clients, “You’re probably never going to die, but just in case you do someday, it would be a good idea to have the right documents in place.”

That’s actually a great idea. But preparing heirs means more than having the right documents to guide executors, trustees, and beneficiaries.

It means considering the wants, needs, and skills of your heirs. It means weighing the ability of each of them to make decisions and handle assets. If you foresee disagreements over provisions in your estate plan, you should probably discuss them with your heirs. They may not like a particular provision or decision of yours, but they may understand it.

Family governance prepares heirs for their future responsibilities. In developing and practicing governance, they learn how to make business decisions and handle assets. If they are unwilling or unable to learn those skills and work together, they can opt out or find suitable, less active roles in the governance structure.

To be prepared, you (and your heirs) need to have a succession and estate plan and good governance in place. And you need to have them long before you’re gone.