I love to golf. I don’t get out too often, so my skills…well, reflect that. When I do play, it’s often in a tournament. My favorite tournament format is the scramble. As you may know, in a scramble format, you take the best-hit ball of your foursome and play from that spot. Not only does that format undoubtedly help my score (sometimes, significantly), but it allows me to interact with a mix of people and hear some great stories and learn a few lessons.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to golf with a lovely lady who taught me a memorable golf, as well as life, lesson. She shared with me her golfing secret of imagining that she was holding her club as though it were a dove – firm, so the dove could not fly away but not so tightly as to choke it. I found much wisdom in that concept, not simply for my golf game but in life, love, and estate planning as well.
I thought of this lesson recently as I was mountain biking in Arizona. We were heading into some rougher terrain, and the biking guide reminded me to keep my shoulders and arms loose to absorb the shock from the rocks and bumps on the path. Though my natural reaction when I feel a loss of control is to grip tighter, the guide reminded me that the best course of action is again to hold firmly, but not too tightly, and leave a little give to absorb the unknown bumps along the way.
In my meetings with families regarding their estate plan, we spend a great deal of time talking through family dynamics and life experiences. Through these conversations, I’ve heard amazing stories of families who have been through intense challenges: loss of a child, financial hardship, addictions, death of a spouse. Many spoke of the ability to “ebb and flow” to get through the roughest times in life. We hold tightly to the people we love and the things that matter to us, all the while understanding that there are many bumps we cannot control or foresee in this life, but we know we need to leave some room to give, even if uncomfortable.
This same principle is true in estate planning. Sometimes, farming families will have a goal to make sure their farm is never sold. I will often respond: “never is a long time.” Now, don’t misunderstand: we have worked hard to develop trust mechanisms and provisions to keep farms together and operating effectively for many years. But, we also recognize that we do not know the future. Estate taxes can be unstable, land values fluctuate, development opportunities arise, and life circumstances change. If we draft too tightly, such that beneficiaries have no ability to change and adapt based on their current circumstances, they can be “choked” by inflexible parameters. Instead, we encourage clients to “plan for what they see” to provide guidance and a roadmap for their beneficiaries, but to allow room for life to happen.
My golf game may not be pretty, but my score is better than it was because I have learned to hold firmly, but not choke, the club. I encourage you to apply this same principle as you appreciate the wonderful people and things you hold so dear to your heart, as well as when you plan for how your legacy will pass to the next generation.