Jensen Law Office, PLLC


1833 N 105th St., Suite 301
Seattle, WA 98133

 Planning a Barbecue Is Like Planning Your Estate 

As the Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer season, many look forward to the warm weather and gatherings with loved ones, including backyard barbecues. While a cookout may seem casual, proper planning plays a crucial role in its success. Surprisingly, a similar level of preparation is equally important when it comes to estate planning. Just as meticulous preparations are necessary for a seamless cookout, careful estate planning is vital to avoid the pitfalls of an inadequate or nonexistent plan that could leave you and your loved ones in a challenging situation.

Step 1. Crafting the Menu: Assessing Your Assets

When organizing a barbecue, one of the initial steps is deciding on the menu and ensuring you have all the necessary ingredients. Forgetting a crucial component, such as burger buns, can dampen the festivities and hinder the party’s success. Similarly, in estate planning, it’s essential to comprehensively assess your assets to achieve your desired goals. Overlooking important properties or accounts in your estate plan can undermine its effectiveness.

As your estate planning advisors, we provide a comprehensive checklist to assist you in thoroughly evaluating your assets, ensuring that nothing is inadvertently omitted from your plan. This inventory prompts you to list real and personal properties, as well as all bank and other accounts, while distinguishing between individual and joint ownership. Completing this inventory helps you gain a holistic understanding of your assets and better determine how you want them distributed when you pass away or if you wish to make lifetime gifts. Additionally, it enables us to offer tailored estate planning strategies that provide for your loved ones and help you achieve other objectives, such as minimizing tax liabilities.

Step 2. Sending Invitations: Identifying Your Beneficiaries

The next stage of barbecue planning involves deciding whom to invite. Similarly, when crafting your estate plan, it’s essential to identify your beneficiaries—the individuals who will inherit your assets and wealth or whom you wish to benefit during your lifetime. While this may seem straightforward, creating the beneficiary list requires thoughtful consideration. Your beneficiaries may include your spouse or partner, children and stepchildren, grandchildren, other relatives, friends, charitable organizations, and your church.

When identifying your beneficiaries, it’s important to ponder various factors. For example, you may need to assess whether all your children require an equal inheritance or if one of them, such as a disabled child, has distinct financial needs. In cases where a child struggles with substance abuse, you might decide not to provide a direct inheritance and instead establish a trust designed to prevent the misuse of their inheritance to support their addiction. We can assist you in determining your desired beneficiaries and discussing optimal strategies to provide for them while accomplishing other goals, such as minimizing estate and gift taxes or incentivizing grandchildren to pursue higher education or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Step 3. Portion Control: Allocating Resources Wisely

When planning a barbecue, estimating the amount of food each person will consume is crucial to ensure everyone’s satisfaction. Similarly, in estate planning, distributing your assets appropriately among your beneficiaries is essential. While an initial instinct may be to divide everything equally, specific circumstances may warrant different allocations. For instance, if you have a financially dependent child with special needs, you may choose to establish a trust to provide for their long-term care while distributing smaller inheritances to financially independent siblings.

Depending on the nature of your assets, it may also be important to allocate certain accounts or properties to specific beneficiaries. For example, if you have a family home, real estate, or business in which only one child is actively involved, dividing ownership among multiple siblings may lead to disagreements and strained relationships. To avoid potential conflicts after your passing, consider designating certain properties to one child and monetary assets (such as accounts or insurance proceeds) to others. Alternatively, you could instruct in your will or trust that hard-to-divide properties be sold, with the proceeds evenly distributed among the siblings.

Step 4. Personal Touches: Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Just as you enhance your barbecue experience with thoughtful additions like decorations or personalized touches, your estate plan can include special documents that add a personal touch. For example, you can include heartfelt letters to your loved ones expressing your feelings and hopes for them, serving as a final blessing when you pass away. While wills and trust documents may appear impersonal, these letters can be cherished as one of the most precious gifts you leave behind.

Another meaningful addition is a personal property memorandum, which allows you to indicate who should receive specific tangible personal items, such as heirlooms, collectibles, or sentimental objects (excluding real estate or intangible assets like accounts). By using this memorandum, you can ensure that each family member receives something meaningful to them, avoiding potential disputes among relatives over significant items. To ensure the effectiveness and enforceability of the personal property memorandum, it should be referenced in your will or trust, adhering to any formalities specified by state law.

By incorporating these steps into your estate planning process, you can create a well-prepared and thoughtful plan that provides for your loved ones while accomplishing your objectives. Remember, just as meticulous planning ensures a delightful barbecue experience, comprehensive estate planning brings peace of mind and financial security to you and your family.