What We Know

Hiking to Zion | Part 3: What Should I Leave Behind?

July 8, 2016 | by Brett A. Thompson

Hiking across Zion National Park requires a minimalistic approach on what to pack. Since we were backpacking, we would have to carry everything we needed for an entire week on our backs. Weight is a concern, and space is at a premium. There were certain things for our trip that we would need, other things we would want. Sometimes the difference between a need and want isn’t clear until you’re two or three miles into your hike. That’s when you realize: tent, sleeping bag, food and water, map, and compass are absolute needs whereas junk food, extra clothes, and a selfie stick; not so much.

George Carlin had a bit about stuff. He would say life is about trying to find a place to put your stuff. We buy a house to hold all of our stuff, and then we get more stuff until we need a bigger house to hold all of our stuff. Stuff, or legally speaking real (land) and personal (everything else) property are what we own/possess when we’re alive. But when we’re dead, that stuff doesn’t belong to us any longer because a dead person can’t own stuff. That stuff now becomes part of our estate until someone can figure out who should get our stuff. Just like when I was trying to figure out what to take on my hiking trip, I had to determine what was necessary, what was optional, and what was just surplus. As I said, the weight of my backpack was important for me to manage. Space was limited, so I had to think it and rethink it until I was satisfied that it was right. With estates, the value of property is important and so is its nature. For example, real property may pass directly to a surviving spouse, or shared with a spouse and children. Money might be divided equally or in specific shares depending upon the relationship and generation of the heir. Personal property, or the stuff in your house, may have no cash value but may have immeasurable sentimental value. When everything is said and done, everything you own at the time of your death gets assigned a final dollar amount. Everything we have falls into different categories, to be divided in various ways. For this reason, proper planning, laying out everything you have on the floor or table before you, is essential. You want to see what’s necessary, what’s optional, and what’s surplus. You want to pack your estate planning backpack, unpack it, pack it, and repack it until you have it the way you want it. Then repack it again just to make sure.

When we were packing for our hike, we didn’t know what was important to us until we were at the final mile of our nearly 50-mile hike. Looking back, we had packed things we didn’t need. Same is true in life. When thinking about your possessions, keep this mind so those you leave behind on the trail of life can carry that stuff without the strain of unnecessary weight.

Brett Thompson devotes his practice exclusively to Estate Planning, Probate Litigation, Medicaid Planning, Guardianship, and VA Benefits. He works to ensure that clients’ assets and rights are protected throughout their post-retirement years by leveraging his knowledge to counsel and assist clients through all phases of life planning....LEARN MORE

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