What are the Components of a Life Plan

By John A.C. Cartner

A life plan has two fundamental courses. The first course is one which deals with the expected and identifiable vagaries of life before they occur so that if something goes wrong there is some comfort that a plan – and often funding – is available to navigate through it. The second course comprises unexpected or events of low probability in time or magnitude which occur during the first course.

Let’s take each one at a time. The expected things in life can be put into categories. Personal things occur. Financial things occur. Housing and careers and social interactions occur. Marriages and divorces occur. If there are children their expenses occur -- including education. Medical matters occur and death occurs. A good life plan takes into account finances, quality of life, transmission of family values to children, divorce as gracefully as possible, the implications of marriage or remarriage as gracefully as possible, children and elder relatives, chronic medical needs and death.
The unexpected things can also occur but just as not predictably in time or event. The sudden death of a spouse or both can happen. Children may have special needs. Extraordinary medical expenses or legal expenses may arise. Business failures occur causing great pain. Disability may occur and may be profound. Accidents happen both major and minor. Crimes occur herein a family member is a victim. The last surviving member of a family may not be able to take care of his or her own affairs. A good life plan takes into account these kinds of what ifs tailored to family’s circumstances and reviewed regularly and amended as necessary.
Succinctly the parts of the first course of planning are legal documents such as wills, trusts, directives, powers of attorney, and prenuptial agreements, medical documents and insurances, life insurances, disability insurances, long-term care insurances and so forth. Then there are financial plans such as plans for insurance, savings, investment and budgeting to take care of expected events in the future, maintaining documents current and valid, planning and filing for taxes and many of the other needs of life so that they can be dealt with by a plan already in place. It is a lot to consider and to put together and to keep current. But those who have such plans often express an extraordinary sense of relief that the burden of worry is lifted to a large extent by having a plan.
The second course is more episodic. Insurance can be bought to protect against medical catastrophes or lawsuits. A bankruptcy plan can be devised taking into account protection of assets from liquidation. A disability and incompetence plan can be written. A special children’s plan can assure a parent that children will be take care of properly if disaster strikes. There are many other things which might happen and one cannot name them all. However one would probably not plan to be hit by lightning unless one played a great deal of golf. One would not be expected to die in a terrorist attack in most places. But the other and more pedestrian things happen and a plan keeps one from being caught flat-footed if or when it does.
If one thinks about life and identifies what might happen and what will happen one has a good plan for these things life is a lot more manageable.
Life planning is a concept which is gaining a lot of traction and which is necessary for maritime people.

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John A. C. Cartner

John A. C. CartnerJohn A. C. Cartner

Dr. John A. C. Cartner practices maritime law domestically and internationally. He is designated Proctor in Admiralty by the Maritime Law Association of the United States and is member of other state maritime law associations.

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