This Isn’t a Game - Go With the Chalk! Using Tried and True Strategies in Your Estate Planning and Business Succession Planning

The NCAA basketball tournament is absolutely one of my favorite sporting events. We have a tradition that has developed in our family of filling out brackets on the Monday evening after the tournament field is announced. Everybody looks forward to it. My youngest son will start asking in December when we are going fill out the brackets. The theories each person brings to the table can be quite interesting. My son decided to go with the teams that had the most wins this year. When I looked at his bracket, I assumed he would pick Kansas as the winner. They, of course, had the most wins of any team in the tournament. They are the overall number one seed and one of the favorites to win it all. But to my surprise I found that he had picked Arkansas - Little Rock. Little Rock no doubt had a great season (29 wins – one less than Kansas). But, they are a 12th seeded team from the much smaller Sun Belt conference. My guess is other than a few die-hard fans, he is the only guy in America who has picked them winning the whole thing. I said, what about your theory, where is Kansas? He explained coolly that he had to pick a few upsets.So what does this have to do with estate planning or business succession planning? Well, it is this. My son has a theory, a little bit unique, but in the end, had he stuck with the theory, he might have had Kansas as his champion. But, in our contest the objective isn’t just to pick the overall winner. Rather, it is to gather as many points along the way as you can by predicting how all of the teams will move through the tournament. I explained to him that records can be deceiving and that the tried and true method is usually to go with the chalk – the teams that are seeded higher. Of course, in picking the tournament that isn’t very fun. We know there will be upsets along the way and it is fun to guess what those will be.However, when it comes to estate planning or business succession planning it isn’t a game and the stakes are very real. I was listening to an attorney speak the other day and he was suggesting that a lot of the tried and true techniques are just not relevant anymore. HE had devised NEW and UNIQUE techniques that no one else knew about or were willing to take the time to figure out. These new relevant strategies were, of course, much more relevant that the stogy old ways. I thought to myself, maybe, but until I see a pattern of sustained success using these NEVER BEFORE THOUGHT OF strategies, do I really want my Clients to be the guinea pigs? Maybe you are a gambler and want to test unproven theories, but my advice is generally to look to strategies that have a proven history of success and not the latest late night infomercial sales pitch. Just like the NCAA tournament, there is an occasional 12 seed upsetting a 5 seed. And there are certainly times in planning that call for innovation and risk. But BEWARE of modern day snake oil salesmen. There is usually a reason that a strategy is not widely deployed. While you can win big, the potential for loss is also great, especially if the strategy is just bad. So in undertaking strategies that have not gained general acceptance, proceed with caution – the risk must always justify the reward.So who did I have going to the final four this year? While there will be a few upsets along the way, I have Oregon, Kansas, North Carolina, and Virginia in Houston. All chalk. Sorry though Jayhawk fans, I do have the Carolina Tar Heels beating Kansas in the championship game. A small upset. I think I will be rooting for Little Rock!