In December 2012, retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, one of our nation’s most brilliant military minds of the past century died of complications from pneumonia. General Schwarzkopf, nicknamed Stormin’ Norman, was the commander of coalition forces during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, which were the codenames for the international response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. When the ground campaign ended in victory after only having commenced 100 hours earlier, Schwarzkopf became extremely popular; in fact, many people wanted him to run for political office. Schwarzkopf declined these overtures and, instead, decided to retreat into private life. So what estate planning lessons are to be learned from the death of General Schwarzkopf?
First, we should learn that an estate plan is about far more than simply passing on property or money. When you die, yes, your money and property will pass on to the people you have chosen, but so will your reputation. By choosing to avoid the political circus, General Schwarzkopf’s reputation – as well as the reputation of his family – is as sterling now as it was following the Gulf War. What sort of reputation will you pass on to your survivors? Fortunes can be earned and lost overnight, but a reputation is built promise by promise, day by day.
Second, we should learn that all veterans, even generals, will die at some point so they had better know what benefits are available to them. If you are a veteran, take the time to learn about all the benefits provided by your service.
Experienced and qualified estate planning and elder law attorneys can assist in creating an estate plan personalizied to your circumstances and goals.