‘Tis the gift-giving season, marked over the past few days by Black Friday (which starts on Thanksgiving, now), Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. Early reports say we haven’t spent adequately, at least on Black Friday. Read Black Friday Fizzles with Consumers as Sales Tumble 11% by Lauren Coleman-Lochner for Bloomberg for details.
Cyber Monday sales do continue to grow as a piece of the whole pie, and Ms. Coleman-Lochner’s piece posits that Friday spending has also fallen because consumers are confident enough to wait for better deals, and are no longer revved up by shopping on Friday. The spending/consumer confidence link is often made, though, and here’s this year’s take, in Consumers Flex Their Confidence by Matt Krantz for USA Today.
I see things differently. For sure, there’s a link between confidence and spending; however, I’m feeling pretty good right now and I’m not spending. Why? There’s nothing material that I want or need! The drek (that’s Yiddish for sh*t) which we’re expected to buy each year, to support the economy, doesn’t move me, and I suspect it attracts fewer and fewer people.
I’ll deal with charity as a gift later in the month. For now, though, let’s discuss the very best gift you can give to yourself and those near and dear to you. “What is it,” you say. “Bigger than a breadbox?” “My people are all over, so how can one thing be shared?”
OK, OK, I’ll tell you. Give yourself an estate plan, or an update on the one you already have.
“You’re kidding, right?” No I’m not. By having your affairs in order you give your family its best chance to survive and thrive together in the wake of your passing. You eliminate lots of stress and effort, and not acting provides an excellent opportunity for those around you to fight. And that situation gives me or someone like me (attorneys who handle trust and estate disputes) a chance to end up with some or all of your assets. Really!
With an estate plan you also get to decide many things. Like: who will care for your minor children, when your children get money, whether you want to share your successes with one or more charitable institutions, etc. Important stuff!
At Mesch, Clark & Rothschild, P.C. we also offer assistance with social media wills—to deal with your virtual life—and ethical wills. An ethical will is a document which allows you, in the words of an attorney friend, to “say those things to people when you’re gone which you would not say while you were here.” Hey, there may be nice thoughts you have a hard time expressing.
We’re all here once. (Yes, yes, I know about Shirley MacLaine, and if you think she’s right, you’re here only once as the “you” who is you, now! OK?) For a bit of money and some time, we can be prepared for when we’re gone and by doing so we give those around us the blessing of any easy passing.
About taxes, which begin too many discussions about estate planning: I manned a booth recently at an event where we asked people to tell us how big an individual estate must be before federal estate taxes apply. Four choices: (a) $1; (b) $100,000; (c) $1,000,000; or (d) $5,430,000. Nobody gave us the right answer, which is (d). Less than 1% of all estates, annually, owe any federal estate tax. (There is no Arizona estate tax.) Simply, for all but the wealthiest among us, estate taxes are a non-issue.
I don’t want to be New-Agey, but I try very hard in the estate planning realm to focus on my clients completely, and not just on their money. I’m available, and whether you contact me or someone else, make 2014 the year which ends with your gift to you and yours of a complete, thought out and well-drafted estate plan.
P.S. If readers are wondering why I have not commented on the latest grand jury decision from New York, stay tuned. Here at Mark Rubin Writes we tend to follow the adage of old friend Griff, who says “you have to go slow to go fast.” In this context, that means processing what has happened a bit more!