Jigsaw Puzzles and Asset Titling

by | May 26, 2009 | Asset Protection, Estate Planning

Let’s think of estate planning as a puzzle.


Do you like to know what the picture is that you’re putting together when you work a puzzle? In fact, when I go to buy a puzzle, I only have 2 criteria – the size (usually 500 pieces) and what the picture is. I want a picture on the front that I like.

Do you know what picture you are trying to create with your estate plan? What will your stuff be doing to impact people? How do you hope your family and others are getting along after you’re gone?

Most of my clients have a very fuzzy estate planning picture when I first meet with them. They have some ideas, but maybe not a lot of details. Or there may be things they want to do that they have never heard of until they meet with me. As we work together, their estate planning goals get clearer. As they work with me over the years, it gets even clearer, year by year.


Once you know the picture you want, then you need the right puzzle pieces to make that picture come together.

As you go through life, you collect different pieaces of your estate planning puzzle. You buy a house with your wife. That’s one piece. Then you get a life insurance policy and name beneficiaries – that’s another. Then you put some money into a CD at the bank and name a grandkid as “payable on death.” Then you may even add a 401k, IRA, annuity, timeshare, car, jewelry, family heirlooms, etc. Each of these assets, and how they are organized and held legally, is another piece to your estate planning puzzle. If at some point you did a will or a trust, then those are additional pieces to your estate plan puzzle.

When we work with clients to gather up all these pieces (or info about them). Then we lay out all the pieces and look to see if they fit in with the picture (the plan) that we are creating with the client.

Most of the time, they don’t all fit and we have to move some assets around, change the way they are titled, so everything works together. Without this kind of coordination, when a client gets to the end of their life, the family may be left with a bunch of pieces that don’t fit together. And even if the pieces can be forced together, they may not make the picture the person had in mind for their legacy.

Do all your estate planning pieces fit together?