Although it is hard to see as a spectator from the stands, Football is a precision game, ask anyone who has played competitively.  I played (if you can call it that) freshman year of high school. I was the second string tight-end, which meant that I only saw playing time if we happened to be winning by a lot or the other guy was injured or tired. Lets just say my Friday night lights dream died quickly, but I had still had fun.

The tight-end is a lineman and receiver hybrid.  Whether blocking or receiving on the coming play, my starting stance on the line depended on the position of the lineman next to me, and my actions during the play were predetermined.  My job was not nearly as hard as the quarterback; he made executive decisions each play based on the chaos in front of him.

At that level, there are generally two types of quarterbacks, there were guys with a big throwing arm who had little throwing accuracy and there were guys who cannot throw big and far but who had great accuracy and timing. The guy with a big arm needs GREAT receivers. The guy with the accurate arm only needs OPTIONS.

Compared to the other options, Wills are terrible planning instruments. Picking a Will to direct an estate plan is like picking the big arm guy. Because that’s what it does, it throws a ball (inheritance) to a designated spot down field, hoping the receiver is also in the correct spot and is ready to catch the ball.  Add any more complexity, and you essentially create a trust within a will, which is not only illogical in practice, but a terrible and more expensive plan for almost everyone.

Trusts are great planning instruments, because like the quarterback with accuracy, the trust can be drafted in a way that the Trustee can see the whole field and deliver the ball to the right receiver at the right time.

Fundamentally, the question that must be answered is whether an estate needs a guy with a big arm or accuracy. We do not really know that answer until the decision maker has an opportunity to evaluate the field, the potential opposition, and the recipients.  The other important considerations (the amount of wealth, the taxes, the heirs, and the timing of distributions) are all based on the answer to that fundamental question.

Here is what I want you to remember. If an estate planning professional is promoting a will-based plan, think of that kid in the huddle who, when it was their turn to play quarterback, always told the receivers to “go long.”