Wills, Trusts & Surfboards

You may be thinking that wills and trusts don’t seem to have a lot to do with surfboards. But for me, they have a lot in common. I have spent years studying all three. I appreciate their intricacies. They all take up a lot of my time. And they affect my finances. Wills and trusts are how I make money. Surfboards are how I spend it.
In a broad sense, they all three are tools that can be used to achieve a certain objective. Wills are a tool used to transfer property at death. Trusts can be used to accomplish all kinds of different things. Surfboards are used to ride waves. I used surfboards in my example because I understand them. I could have used golf clubs, cameras, bicycles or guitars.
In 1987, I bought my first surfboard. It was a used 5’8” Lightning Bolt twin fin. I worked for about 40 hours in a tobacco field to earn enough to pay for it. I wish I had it now. But it wasn’t at all what I needed at the time. I wanted a surfboard, and it was brightly-colored and relatively cheap. I bought it without a whole lot of research or thought, and without paying any attention to the advice of the surf shop owner. I somehow learned to surf on it. And that ill-chosen surfboard started an obsession that is still going strong 29 years later.
When I bought that first surfboard, I didn’t understand how the size and shape of the board would affect my ability to ride it. I didn’t know what types of waves it was designed to ride. I didn’t understand how the number, size or placement of fins would affect its performance. Over time, I came to appreciate all of those things. But it took decades of surfing on lots of different boards, hundreds of hours of research, and building a few surfboards myself.
Wills and trusts might be the only things that I understand better than surfboards. A lot of people view their will like I viewed my first surfboard. They don’t want to think about how it works or why. They just want a Will. And it is always a “simple” will. Nobody ever says they want a complex estate plan. But they all want their plan to work.
Countless clients have told me that they didn’t understand why I ask so many questions. Their last lawyer didn’t ask about all of these things. They had no idea that this was so complicated. Occasionally someone wants to know why I need to know about their family and their assets since they just want a simple will. And I always explain that I have to understand their family, their business, their assets and what is important to them if I am going to help them accomplish their goals.   
I try to get my clients to focus on what they want to accomplish and let me worry about choosing the tools to accomplish those goals. I have several different surfboards. They all have a purpose. I wouldn’t know what kind of surfboard I needed to bring unless I knew the type and size of waves and how I wanted to ride them. I also have dozens of different tools that can be used to accomplish your estate planning goals. But I won’t know what tool to use, unless I understand both your goals and how your specific circumstances affect each planning alternative.
Estate planning doesn’t have to be your hobby. But you should make sure you have the right tools to accomplish your goals and someone guiding you through the process. If you don’t think through what will happen upon your death or incapacity, your family could suffer. If you don’t understand how your Will or trust works, why you have your particular type of estate plan, and what your loved ones need to do upon your death, then you are leaving everything up to chance.   
If you have put more thought into your golf clubs, camera lenses, or fishing lures than you have put into planning what happens upon your death or incapacity, it is time for you to make sure your family is protected.