Last month I had an unbelievable experience. I walked on fire.
OK, not actual fire, but I walked on hot coals at Tony Robbins’s Unleash the Power Within seminar in West Palm Beach, Florida. Since that time I’ve had so many people ask me questions like, “What was it like?” (It was amazing.) “Did you burn your feet?” (Not at all.)
The entire weekend was life changing. But from an estate-planning perspective, there was one moment that really hit home for me.
Tony told a powerful story about his own life. There came a point when he had literally less than $20 to his own name, and he went to an all-you-can-eat buffet because that was where he could get the most amount of food for the smallest amount of money. He had to walk the three miles to get there because he did not want to pay for gas money.
After he was finished eating, Tony looked around and saw this cute 9-year-old boy wearing a suit and a bow-tie holding the door open for an older, beautiful woman. The boy walked this woman to a table and took out a chair for her to sit down. Tony was so struck by this that he walked over to the table and asked the boy, “How is your date going?”
The boy whispered, “It’s not really a date, she’s my mom!”
Tony said, “Well it’s nice of you to treat her so well. It’s great you want to take your mother out to lunch!”
The boy said sadly, “I don’t have any money to take her out to lunch.”
Tony said, “Now you do!” and he took all the money he had and dropped it on the table.
The boy said, “I can’t take this!”
Tony said, “Yes, you can, and you have to listen to me, because I’m bigger than you!” With that, Tony walked right out of the restaurant.
Tony left the restaurant that day penniless, but happier than he had ever been in his life. In that moment, Tony understood the secret to life.
The secret to living—is giving.
As long as you give as much as you can, you will live a life people only dream about. The smile on that boy’s face will be forever etched in his brain as a reminder of this principle. And when Tony got home (after the three-mile walk) he opened his mail and there was a check for $1,300 from a friend who owed him money. Tony built his $5 billion empire on that $1,300.
At the end of the day, we won’t be remembered for all of things we acquired in this world. We will be remembered for what we gave to our friends, to our families, to the world. We don’t truly enjoy the things we receive in this world, at least not for the long term. But the things we give away, our time, our money, our hearts, that is everlasting. Acquisition is temporary. Giving is forever.
This idea is just as powerful when we think of estate planning—on two levels. First, there are many charitable trusts that are fantastic tax-efficient vehicles that not only help charities, but they also help families. In some instances, you or your family members can receive an annuity that is a complete win-win for your family/you and the charity. More on this in a later article.
On a more fundamental level, especially if you do not have a plan, or if you have an outdated plan, you can give your family peace of mind by actually having a plan in place. If your documents are old, or if you do not have any at all, you will ensure much heartache and suffering for the ones you love. Any estate-planning attorney will tell you how hard probating an estate can be when there are no documents. I’ve seen families fight over $50,000 as much as $1,000,000 when there were no documents in place.
But if your plan is current, if you protect your loved ones with a proper plan (and life insurance), then you give something that will last a lifetime.
As we head into Pesach, know that you can give more than just money. Give your family, give yourself, the gift of a proper plan. And feel good that you have protected the ones who love you the most. Give more, live more.
By Alec Borenstein
Alec Borenstein, Esq., an estate-planning attorney, is a Teaneck resident with offices in Springfield and Brooklyn. His firm’s website is bmcestateplanning.com. If you’d like a free estate-planning consultation in the comfort of your own home or office, please email [email protected].