Estate planning is the process of:

  • arranging your assets;
  • planning how they will be distributed when you die; and
  • preparing legal documents to enforce your wishes after you are gone.

But here at Relational Estate and Elder Law, we approach estate planning in a much more holistic way. We specialize in Relational Estate Planning®, which is:

An estate planning philosophy that prioritizes your loved ones’ well-being, rather than focusing solely on your assets and how you’ll distribute them.

Relational Estate Planning’s main priority is to leave your loved ones in the best possible position when you die. Although it takes more forethought and work to create, a Relational Estate Plan will bring you greater peace of mind and confidence about the future than any traditional estate plan.

Of course, we still address your assets, their distribution, and the legal documents needed to ensure this happens the way you want. But we do so while keeping the biggest focus on caring for your loved ones.

What Is an Estate Plan?

An estate plan is the end product of the estate planning process. It is a person’s legally binding plan for their wishes at death, and instructions for what will happen to their assets after they are gone. It can be as simple and straightforward as using one legal tool, such as a will or a trust. More often, though, an assortment of legal tools are used in combination to fit your situation and goals. These tools can include:

  • wills;
  • trusts;
  • beneficiary designations;
  • planned giving; and
  • funeral directives.

Because we practice Relational Estate Planning®, we also advocate several nontraditional estate planning tools. These tools are not legal tools, but they will make your legal plan much more effective and help your loved ones with practical details when you pass. The relational tools include:

  • ethical wills;
  • the estate guide and inventory; and
  • gifts and memories lists.

(Related: Wills, Trusts, and Other Tools of Estate Planning.)

How Do I Begin Estate Planning?

Now that you know what estate planning is, what are the first steps?

First, we recommend you think about who is important to you and what you hope to do for them through your estate plan. Who do you want to use your assets to protect or provide for? How do you hope to impact your loved ones through your death? How can you use your assets to contribute to their well-being? In short, what do you hope to accomplish with your estate plan?

(Related: 5 Ways You Can Help Your Loved Ones with Relational Estate Planning)

Second, form a relationship with an experienced estate attorney in your state. Find an attorney who will value both your relational goals and your asset distribution. They will be able to draft valid legal documents to help you care for yourself and your loved ones at the end of your life. It is also important to build a relationship with an attorney you can trust. You may need them to help you tweak your plan as time goes on or to help your family execute your plan when you die.

(Related: 6 Tips for Choosing an Estate Planning Attorney)

Are you ready to create your estate plan? Schedule an appointment with us! We’d love to get to know you and help you plan for the future.


Joshua E. Hummer, Esq. is a licensed attorney who has been admitted in both Virginia and West Virginia. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and has been practicing for over 15 years. While experienced in many parts of the law, Josh specializes in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law.