Estate Planning Process

Awkward Financial Discussions—Strategies For Diminishing The Ackwardness:

There may be people close to you (spouse, parents, children) who are practicing financial behaviors that are unproductive or destructive. You want to help them get back on track, but you don’t want to come across as judgmental or condescending, or put them on the defensive.

The Key Takeaways:

  1. Living within one’s means liberates spending for high-priority purchases.

  2. Financial discipline, and correcting bad behaviors, leads to financial security.

Correcting Bad Behavior Leads to Financial Security:

Financial security falls squarely on living within one’s means. If financial security is desired, being financially irresponsible works against the person’s own interest. People often waste money a little here and a little there, and this lack of discipline can sabotage their primary spending goals. Correcting these bad behaviors can help the person meet their top spending priorities. Through budgeting, and avoiding trivial spending, the person can see that important goals can be met.

What You Need to Know:

The core issue is often psychological. People often overspend out of insecurity, low self-esteem, or a deeper need that is not being filled. Addressing the core issue can be helpful in changing spending habits.

How to Begin

Sometimes having a meeting to address the entire family’s finances can be less confrontational than singling out one family member. In either case, you can bring up the subject by mentioning a situation you have seen on the news or that has happened to someone you know and suggesting that a conversation could be helpful to your family before a problem occurs. Realizing that other people are also having financial worries or difficulties can make it easier for a family member to talk about their own struggles.

Actions to Consider:

  • Be an enthusiastic example. Tell others about ways you have found to save money (like inexpensive sources for food, clothing and household items; restaurant coupons and bargain movies) and what you are doing with the savings (paying off debt or saving for college, a vacation, or retirement)—and how good it feels!

  • Don’t co-sign a loan; if the person defaults, your credit score could take a hit. Also, be very careful about lending money to family or friends. If you feel you must, write an agreement, set a reasonable interest rate and be clear about repayment—then consider it a gift. (Chances are you won’t be repaid.) Never give more than you can afford.

  • Instead of giving money, offer to help go over income and expenses and find ways to cut expenses. Most people in financial trouble have a money management problem. But if more income really is needed, you could pay the person for work you might hire someone else to do or help them find a part-time job, in parallel with your coaching.

  • Once someone agrees to discuss their finances with you, schedule time to convey the importance of the subject.

  • Start with an education session. Explain how interest is added to a credit card balance. Calculate how much interest was added to the balance in the last couple of years. Questions you can ask:

    • “What could you buy or what bill could you pay if you didn’t have to pay the interest on your balance?”

    • “What did you buy with your credit card? How meaningful are those things to you now?”

    • “If I could give you, in a lump sum, the balance on your credit card plus the interest you have been paying, what would you want to buy that would have real meaning to you?”

  • Describe how every company works through a budget. Questions you can ask:

    • “Why does a company have employees operate on a budget?”

    • “How does a budget help a company manage effectively?”

    • “At the end of the year, what do you think happens to those companies that met their budgets compared to those that didn’t?”

  • Describe the structure of a budget process including net income, current obligations, amount spent by category and the remaining amount.

  • Help the person determine and list spending priorities. Questions you can ask:

    • “What’s most important to you?”

    • “What can you live without?”

    • “What do you want that can be purchased less frequently or at a lower cost?”

  • Discuss the rewards that come with good financial management by asking:

    • “If you’re able to meet or beat your budget, how do you think you’ll feel?”

    • “How would you reward yourself if you did so?”

 If you are interested in ensuring that your family is cared for after you have passed away, please call our office at 415-625-0773 to schedule your free estate planning consultation with San Francisco’s premiere estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.

Are You Wasting Money?—Part Three: Taxes, Insurance, Not Bidding and/or Negotiating

So far in this series on wasting money, we have looked at how people may overpay for housing, interest, transportation, food, clothing and entertainment. In this last part, we will look at a few more areas in which we may pay more than necessary—taxes, insurance, not obtaining bids for services, and not negotiating for large purchases.

While you may already be astute in these areas, sharing good financial practices like these with your children and/or grandchildren can be part of your legacy, as you help them prepare to be prudent and responsible beneficiaries. And, for tax management and risk management (via insurance coverage), your legal and advisory team can produce integrated tools to assist you in keeping more of your money within the family than having it leak out unnecessarily.

The Key Takeaways:

  • Any time you pay more for something than you have to, money is wasted.

  • Reviewing tax deductions and insurance coverage, comparison shopping, bidding out services and repairs, and negotiating—these take time, but they can help save significantly.

  • Any time you save money, you are being financially responsible and will find more money for the expenses in life that are really important to you. 

Where People Waste Money…And Actions to Consider

 1.              Taxes. Take every deduction to which you are entitled. Even if a professional prepares your tax returns, it is a good idea to become familiar with allowable deductions. For example, charitable deductions, even small ones, add up—if you volunteer, keep track of your mileage and financial contributions; fill out the form when you make clothing and household donations; and instead of dropping cash into the offering box at your place of worship, write a check or set up automatic payments.  Of course, if you have significant charitable interests, trust-based strategies offer you cost effectiveness and a disciplined structure.

 2.              Insurance. Review your policies every year. Property values change, and it’s important to not over- (or under-) insure. For example, an older car may not need collision insurance. Increasing deductibles will save on premiums. Bundling various policies (home, autos, personal liability, jewelry) under one insurer will probably earn you discounts and save time.

 3.              Not getting bids when hiring workers. Asking friends and neighbors for references is a good start, but it is also important to get at least three estimates. And remember, the lowest price is not always the best value.

 4.              Not periodically rebidding current products and services. Being loyal is commendable, but not if it causes you to pay more than necessary. If you are able to find a lower price, your current provider may match it to keep you as a customer.

 5.              Not negotiating for large purchases. We all know there is profit margin built into pricing, and there is usually a larger margin on expensive items. Some vendors actually expect to negotiate. Learning how to negotiate fairly and respectfully will frequently save you some money.

What You Need to Know: It’s easy to get caught up in the current culture of instant gratification and impulse spending. We could all benefit from slowing down a bit and becoming better consumers. Taking the time to evaluate purchases and comparison shop will not only help avoid overspending and wasting money, but it results in satisfaction from being responsible and efficient with money.

More Actions to Consider:

  1. Evaluate how you may be overspending in these areas. Commit to following through on some of these suggestions and note how much money you save.

  2. Think where you could use that extra money. Would you like to pay off some debt, or save for a family vacation, car, home, college, or charitable gift?

  3. Start to prioritize spending and set some money-saving goals. Creating a budget and monitoring spending on a regular basis will help avoid wasting money and start meeting goals you set. (For more on this, read the previous blogs on budgeting and setting spending priorities.) 

If you are interested in ensuring that your family is cared for after you have passed away, please call our office at 415-625-0773 to schedule your free estate planning consultation with San Francisco’s premiere estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.


NPR is currently running an interesting series on financial basics for Baby Boomers. An NPR article published today (Article Link)  struck a chord with me because my office works to make the process of creating an estate plan as streamlined and friendly as possible. Of course, this can prove to be challenging at times, because many people do not realize that good estate planning is necessarily a collaborative process. That is, the Estates attorney must be able to determine the client's estate planning goals based upon information provided by the client. The attorney then uses this information to draft estate planning documents that best effectuate the client's objectives. However, many view the creation of an estate plan akin to having a CPA complete annual tax returns. In contrast, to create an estate plan the effectively meets your wishes your lawyer must understand more than your financial positions. 

Generally, this process includes the client filling out an intake sheet and then meeting with the Estates lawyer. Afterwards, a draft of the estate planning documents are drafted, which the client reviews. Finally, a signing ceremeony is scheduled—where the client executes the documents.

While this process does involves the client providing the attorney with information, the back and forth is imperative to the ultimate plans success. While one can choose to create his or her own or purchase a pre-made "estate plan", doing so will not distribute your assets and protect loved ones pursuant to your wishes. To create an estate plan that actually meets your goals and desires after you are no longer around, it is imperative to consult with an attorney who takes the time to know your overall objectives, family situation, and estate planning goals. While the process of creating and executing such a plan can seem work intensive—it is much easier and less expensive than failing to make any plan.

Because you have no say how your assets are distributed and your legacy is protected after you are gone—it is worth the time and effort to create an estate plan to ensure that your wishes are met.

If you are interested in ensuring that your family is cared for after you have passed away, please call our office at 415-625-0773 to schedule your free estate planning consultation with San Francisco’s premiere estate planning attorney, Matthew J. Tuller.