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Recently a colleague shared a story about a married couple who had come in to sign their estate planning documents. When they made their end of life choices, the wife questioned the husband regarding his choice to extend his life as long as possible using all medical means available. She asked why would he want to be hooked up to all sorts of tubes, a ventilator, or other equipment? How could he really want to be in that condition for an indefinite period of time? He turned to her and said with all seriousness that his pension would continue as long as he was alive, and keeping him alive as long as possible meant that she would be financially secure. What an act of love!

Oftentimes when we think about estate planning, our thoughts turn to the distribution of our “stuff” after we die. But it is really much more than that. Estate planning is not only making sure our possessions and property go to certain people or support certain causes after we pass. It also includes planning for incapacity, appointing someone to take care of minor children, making sure our loved ones will be financially secure in our absence, and leaving a legacy of values and traditions to pass on to future generations.

When we focus on estate planning as a process to prepare for our inevitable demise, it is easy to postpone it, put it on the bottom of our “to do” list, and procrastinate while thinking we’ll get around to it someday. However, if we reframe our view and shift our thinking by considering planning as an act of love, it can help us overcome the hurdles we self-impose to justify putting it off. When we treat estate planning as a gift to our loved ones, we express to them that we care enough to make sure that they will be taken care of and to ease their worries about the unknown. So, in addition to chocolates, flowers and fancy dinners, consider giving the gift of peace of mind for Valentine’s Day this year.