“Once you see the effect it can have, you’ll most likely make it a mandatory part of every first meeting with a prospect,” writes Dave Zoller in the Journal of Financial Planning, referring to what he has come to call “the magic question”. The great thing about the question, Zoller explains to his fellow financial planners, is that everyone can answer it – but they are required to think before they do. The 20% of his own prospects who do not answer the question, he concludes, are unable to think futuristically, and are not ready to engage in a true planning process. Zoller’s version of the Magic Question is this:
“If we were meeting three years from today, and you were looking back over those three years, what has to have happened in your financial life for you to feel happy with your progress?”
The same “magic question”, I realize, might well be posed to estate planning clients who are trying to accomplish certain goals relative to their family and their favorite charitable causes. And just as is true in financial planning, there are many challenges, fears, and family dynamics that come into play as we contemplate those decisions.
What’s more, when it’s an estate planning attorney posing the question as opposed to a financial planner, there’s a big unspoken truth hovering in the air – it’s understood that parts of the plan are set to go into effect only after the plan creator has died! “Perhaps the estate planning Magic Question might be phrased as follows:
“If we were communicating three years from today, and you were looking down
from Heaven, observing your family, friends, and other heirs, what has to have happened in order for you to believe your estate planning had been a success?”
- Is the money you left for favorite charitable organizations being used in the ways you hoped for?
- Are your children and grandchildren more financially stable?
- Have they been better able to take advantage of educational opportunities than they might have been without your bequests?
- Are the caretakers whom you appointed carrying out their missions as you envisioned?
- Are you remembered for the values you imparted as well as for the monetary gifts you were able to bestow?
The Magic Question, Zoller asserts, is effective because “it’s about them” and the results they’re looking to achieve, because it brings clarity (what’s important to them and how they would define success). “If you were looking down from Heaven, what has to have happened for you to feel your estate planning has been a success?”
– by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates blog team