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Using Your Estate Plan to Foster Positivity

Written by: Carrell Blanton Ferris

Posted on: June 23, 2020

estate plan to foster positivity

Using Your Estate Plan to Foster Positivity

Scientific studies have shown that there is a wide range of benefits flowing from a positive mental outlook, as evidenced by an optimistic attitude and patterns of positive thinking. At a time when it is easy to be overwhelmed by worst-case scenarios and bleak predictions, you can choose to foster a positive outlook and demonstrate resilience in the midst of adversity using an unlikely vehicle: your Estate Plan.  By using your Estate Plan to plant the seeds of positivity during this trying time, you can increase your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of your children or other beneficiaries, as your act of choosing positivity can bring about the various health and emotional benefits associated with a positive mental outlook, leading to more successful outcomes in daily life. This is not just an attempt to make yourself feel better in the face of difficult circumstances, but rather, a choice to take full advantage of the proven benefits of optimism.

Health Benefits of Optimism

The health benefits of optimism are many. Happiness, a byproduct of a positive mental outlook, has repeatedly been shown to boost the immune system, as studies show that happy people who were exposed to illnesses were less likely to become sick or had milder symptoms than others who tended toward negative moods.[1]  According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking has a multitude of health benefits above and beyond a greater resistance to ailments, including an increased life span, lower levels of depression and distress, more psychological and physical well-being, better cardiovascular health, and better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.[2] Importantly in these times of heightened stress, studies have shown that people who experience positive emotions are able to consider a wider range of potential coping strategies during times of stress, which results in greater resilience against present and future adversity.[3]

Impact of Positivity on Success

Dr. Martin Seligman, a well-known researcher in the field of psychology, has found that those who are happy and satisfied with their lives are more likely to achieve desirable outcomes in school, work, social relationships, health, and life in general. According to Seligman, negative emotions narrow our perspective, driving us toward a single, instinctive action while ignoring everything else around us.  This can cause us to fixate on reacting to a perceived danger, trapping us in a “fight or flight” response.  In contrast, positive emotions are accompanied by a broadened perspective that allows us to identify and examine a number of options and choose the one we believe is best for that particular situation.

Optimists are also more often able to establish clear goals, focus on different ways to attain them, and believe they actually can make these goals a reality. Hopeful people view negative events as temporary setbacks or isolated unfortunate events. As a result of this perception, they are resilient and better equipped to handle life’s challenges, viewing them as learning experiences and challenges to be overcome. They have confidence they can take action to improve their lives, and because of that, they are generally more likely to achieve higher levels of success.

Using Your Estate Plan to Foster Positivity and Appropriate its Benefits for Your Beneficiaries

You can foster positivity and demonstrate resilience through your Estate Plan in a number of ways.  Most obviously, if you do not currently have an Estate Plan in place, you can call our offices to speak with one of our many talented Estate Planning attorneys who will help you consider the best way to provide an inheritance to your beneficiaries and put an incapacity plan in place.  By establishing a comprehensive Estate Plan, you can reduce the payment of needless taxes, maximize the inheritance your beneficiaries will receive upon your passing, and empower persons of your choosing to make health decisions and manage your finances on your behalf if you are ever unable to do so yourself—without involving the court system.  We offer initial consultations via telephone or video conference, with virtual draft reviews, and a brief, highly sterilized signing conference under controlled, safe conditions.  If putting an Estate Plan in place has been an item on your list of priorities, let us help you cross it off your list.

For those of you who already have a plan in place, rather than focusing merely on negative goals, such as preventing a spendthrift child from wasting his or her inheritance, you can foster positivity by viewing your Estate Plan as a way to pass along a positive legacy to your beneficiaries. One method of doing this is to draft a “Legacy Letter” to your beneficiaries (or a “Letter of Instruction” to your Successor Trustee) that shares themes such as important values, religious beliefs, life lessons, and cherished memories.  Such a letter could be drafted in traditional written form or captured in a video recording; and it could be shared during your lifetime, or as one of the most meaningful gifts you leave upon your death. Your positive, personal message will serve as a powerful catalyst to increase the wellbeing of your family members and may even result in stronger relationships.

Additionally, you can design your Estate Plan to provide funds for activities that create lasting, positive experiences for your beneficiaries. Although providing financial security for family members and loved ones is clearly a positive goal, we can help you be intentional about setting aside money for meaningful experiences, such as family trips or special types of schooling or volunteer activities, which will allow your beneficiaries to flourish and develop their strengths and interests.  Research shows that gifts such as trips and experiences result in a stronger relationship between the giver and the recipient than material gifts, even if the giver does not experience the event with the recipient.[4]  By designating funds to be used to create lasting experiences for your beneficiaries, you can use your Estate Plan to provide an enduring, positive legacy.

Let Us Help You Achieve a Positive Goal

During this time of national crisis, a positive mental outlook is more important than ever. We look forward to helping you think through and identify ways to incorporate positivity into your Estate Plan, which will provide you with the confidence and peace of knowing that you are not only providing your family with financial security, but also are leaving a positive legacy that will promote your loved ones’ physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing and future success.  Please call us today to schedule a meeting so that we may discuss how to best achieve your Estate Planning goals.

 

Content provided by WealthCounsel and edited by Brittany M. Wrigley

[1] Mark Holder, “Happiness and Your Immune System,” Psychology Today, June 9, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-happiness-doctor/201706/happiness-and-your-immune-system

[2] “Positive Thinking: Stop Negative Self-Talk to Reduce Stress,” last visited April 16, 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950

[3] Christian T. Gloria & Mary A. Steinhardt, “Relationships Among Positive Emotions, Coping, Resilience and Mental Health,” Stress Health. 2016;32(2): 145-156.

[4] Cindy Chan and Cassie Mogilner, “Experiential Gifts Foster Stronger Relationships than Material Gifts,” 43(6) Journal of Consumer Research 913 (April 2017), https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article-abstract/43/6/913/2632328

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