Over the past 12 months, I have read many articles on the topic of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology, and its potential medical uses. This subject is of particular interest because it is a developing genome editing technology that is controversial but yet shows great promise to treat cancers and other diseases. In 2018, CRISPR produced a global scandal in China because of its possible misuse. In 2019, the technology entered into clinical trials in the US. The CRISPR technology shows tremendous promise: however, a copious amount of research and trials have yet to be done. As often happens when I am reading on any topic, I find myself applying themes of the article to my everyday world of finance and estate planning.

A recent article about the advances of CRISPR technology noted that the technology is far from perfect, but it may be the best we have to combat some of the most fatal diseases we face today. At the time I read this particular article, I was working with clients and their attorney to implement some changes to their estate planning documents. As I discussed with the client their goals and how they related to their complex family dynamics, I caught myself applying the principle of “far from perfect, but it may be the best we have” to the field of estate planning.

As trust officers, we have countless conversations with clients to guide them in developing estate plans that fit their perfectly imperfect and, many times, complex family structures, dynamics and relationships. We assist families with essential and open conversations with heirs that can help reduce conflicts to achieve a legacy of wealth and good behaviors in the best possible way given what we know today. I am always grateful for the openness in which clients share the complexities of their individual families because that openness allows us to provide optimum guidance and solutions with continued reassessment and changes as warranted.

Many times, as we discuss the various methods of division and distribution patterns of assets to heirs, clients will ask about the most frequently used or most common division and distribution used by others. The methods and patterns are virtually endless, so we tend to begin by discussing some of the most commonly used patterns and then work to find those that may be best for the clients given their goals and their current and unknown future family dynamics. The challenge, more times than not, rests in trying to make planning goals and family dynamics run parallel. As you can imagine, many times they do not.

Occasionally, the solutions we provide can be complex as we help clients meld together achieving goals and current and unknown future family dynamics. At times, the solutions can be more easily achieved. But always, we must recognize that creating an estate plan is trying to predict what tomorrow will bring and implement the appropriate estate planning documents and language in the documents that will leave the client’s assets to heirs in a way that results in the least amount of conflict as possible, addresses the current and future needs of heirs and creates a legacy of responsibility and success.

Which brings us back to the premise of “far from perfect, but it may be the best we have.” As we help clients develop and implement many estate planning techniques, we find that they are not always perfect, but they are the best we have at the moment to achieve goals despite the many things that are constantly changing. Even the most well thought out and implemented estate plan should undergo periodic review and assessment to ensure that the plan is still the most effective and efficient it can be in the context of changing circumstances, new information, rules, regulations, laws and goals. As we constantly tell all our clients, estate planning is a process, not a one-time event.