By Raley L. Wiggins
After the whistle blows, controlled chaos ensues. The ball sails down the field into the waiting arms of the kickoff return man. Maybe it sails over his head into the stands, or perhaps he waives his arm to signal a fair catch. Or maybe, just maybe, he runs it back for a touchdown, or fumbles the catch. Then the excitement really begins.
All sports involve strategy. But the stop-and-start nature of American football accentuates the strategy perhaps more than in any other sport. The coaches march up and down the sideline, furiously rattling off complicated signals to the players on the field, coupled with fake signals designed to confuse their opponent. Coordinators sit high up in the press box, looking for any weakness in the opponents defenses and radioing their intelligence down to the sideline.
The final game plan is the culmination of weeks and months of watching film, running drills, and playing against the scout team. In football, you can’t ever know exactly what your opponent will throw at you—so you game plan. You look at your opponent’s tendencies, and plan for as many contingencies as possible.
As estate planning lawyers, we know a little bit about planning for contingencies. It’s what we do every day. We learn as much as we can about a client’s family and financial goals, and we come up with a game plan to accomplish those goals, while planning for the unexpected.
Think of it this way. If your favorite team could know exactly what play the opposing team would run on every play, they could game plan perfectly. They could anticipate every move and have the personnel in place to counter it. But of course that’s not how it works.
The same is true for your estate plan. You have an image in your mind that you and your spouse will grow very old together, and that your children will outlive you by many years. Hopefully that is the way things will go, but there are no guarantees in life.
If things don’t go as planned, you need a game plan. Most people I meet think that they need a “simple” will—and the shorter the better. But a very short will by its very nature leaves room for interpretation. For every word that is omitted in the name of brevity or simplicity, a small window for interpretation, or misinterpretation, is cracked open. And remember, you won’t be here to explain what you “meant” to say.
Likewise, you don’t see major college football coaches getting together on Saturday morning and asking each other, “So, who are we playing today?” Instead, you see meticulously prepared players and coaches with color-coded charts and wristbands speaking a language most of us will never understand. It doesn’t happen by accident.
A game plan is about planning for both the expected and the unexpected. If a thorough game plan is good enough for the home team, it’s good enough for the people at home—your family. If you have been putting off planning, think about what would happen to your family if something happened to you. Would they have a game plan to follow, or would they be winging it?