I’ve been pondering a question these past couple of weeks, and it’s one I don’t have the answer to. But I’d like to share it because I think it’s an interesting question. And that question is, ‘What is the difference between ‘End of Life Planning’ and ‘Estate Planning’?
End of Life Planning vs Estate Planning
I think ‘estate planning’ is a term that is widely recognised, has been used for a number of years, and people have a sense of what it’s about and what it’s referring to.
‘End of Life Planning’, on the other hand, is an established term, but is not as widely used; it’s not as widely known and understood.
And people can, I think, have different expectations and assumptions about what the term ‘End of Life Planning’ actually refers to.
Let me give you an example. When people undertake estate planning, be that in the form of making a will or trust, making their Lasting Power of Attorney, or looking at their financial investments, these activities are generally carried out before there’s any known ‘point of need’.
Essentially, estate planning is carried out with the future very firmly placed beyond the foreseeable horizon.
So somebody might decide to undertake some estate planning well before they have any reason to think they will no longer be in control of it.
End of Life Planning – Who is it for really?
But when it comes to End of Life Planning, I have noticed that there is an expectation that you would only consider the need to do this once you are actively at end of life, either because you’re older or because you’re ill.
So when people hear ‘End of Life Planning’. they very often think that you must need to be actively towards the end of your life in order to plan for it.
It will not surprise you to know that I don’t believe that’s the case at all.
I think End of Life Planning is for everyone. No matter your age, no matter your health, it’s wholly inclusive.
But when I look at what you do when making an End of Life Plan, and what you do when you are estate planning, there’s a lot of overlap and similarities.
For example: you will often look at your legal documentation like your will. You will look at your financial assets and be thinking about what you want to happen to those.
And some of the questions and some of the conversations you will be having are similar.
But there are two differences, I think. As I said at the beginning, I don’t have an answer for this, it’s just an interesting question.
End of Life vs Estate Planning – Same Thing, Different Approach?
Generally speaking – this doesn’t apply to all End of Life Planners or all Estate Planners – I think there is a difference in approach.
End of Life Planning – certainly as I view it – is a holistic experience. It considers all parts of your life as it is, in its entirety. You are looking ‘top-down’; you take a step back and you are looking at the whole of your life.
Whereas estate planning, I think, can be a little constrained and is only looking at what constitutes your ‘estate’.
It doesn’t mean that it discounts your feelings and what you want to happen – the relationships you have, the emotions you have attached to your estate – those things are considered important – but the emphasis is on the tangible – the components that make up your estate.
Whereas in End of Life Planning it’s actually about ‘you’ the person. And if there are things that contribute to that in the form of tangible assets, then whilst that is part of it, it’s not where the emphasis lies.
The emphasis in End of Life Planning is on your wishes and preferences; how you would like to approach the end of your life and how you would like to be looked after at that time.
And then, by extension, the possessions that you have and the assets that you own are considered too.
So I think the approach is a little different and that End of Life Planning is more holistic in its nature. But again, I’m speaking generally, not in absolutes!
Strategic vs Tactical
Another way to think of these two different approaches is to use different terminology.
I think an argument could be made to describe End of Life Planning as strategic in its approach -especially if you’re not doing it towards the end of your life, but you really are ‘planning’ for a tomorrow you can’t yet imagine.
It allows you to have that top-down perspective and to just look at your life as a whole start to build your plan. It’s more about the ‘Why am I doing these things?’ and ‘What is it that I’m seeking to achieve here?’
So really strategic questions. And when you have the answers to those, you need to take some action and get into the ‘How do I do this?’ type questions.
That’s where I think Estate Planning is really useful because then you are doing it – that is the ‘how’. You will ask the ‘What?’ and ‘Why?’ questions, but it’s actually the ‘getting it done’ that matters.
I think there is an overlap between End of Life Planning and Estate Planning but I don’t think they’re the exact same thing.
They approach the same subject matter from different entry points and therefore I think the outcome looks a little bit different.
But I would also say that if you’re doing one, then you probably do need to be doing the other.
And I would argue that strategy comes before tactics – End of Life Planning first.
Which then encourages you to find the right person to help with your estate planning and enable you to do the things that need to be done; to finalise the plan, to bring everything together and to give you peace of mind that you’ve tied up all of those loose ends.
So that if something did happen to you yesterday, everything is in place for the people that are left behind to do what they need to do today.
Those are my thoughts. What do you think?
End of Life Planning, Estate Planning. The same? Different? Overlapped?
I’d love to know what you think, so do let me know in the comments below.
Until next time, take care.