Witzke Berry & Carter PLLC
Blog Home Firm Website Practice Areas Contact Us

Stephen Covey: Three Lessons in Estate Planning From an Estate Planning Attorney

July 16, 2012

Filed under: Estate Planning,Power of Attorney,Probate — Tags: , , — Christopher J. Berry @ 10:14 pm

Stephen Covey, famous author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has died at age 79 today.  He is survived by his wife, Sandra, nine children, 52 grandchildren and great-grandfather of two, according to CNN.com.  He passed away from injuries sustained from a bicycle injury.

There are some important lessons that we can learn from Stephen Covey as it applies to estate planning, both from his personal situations as well from his teachings.

I read the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People many years ago and one of my big take aways was his concept of quadrants and how people spend time putting out fires, sharpening the saw, etc.  Quite often taking action on your own personal estate plan may not be one of those crisis’ that call for your immediate attention.  Too often the reason clients start thinking about estate planning is that they are going on a vacation, they’ve had a death in their family, or they’ve received a medical diagnosis.

Estate Planning is one of those things that is best done when not in crisis mode.  Linking it back to Stephen Covey, if estate planning is undertaken during a crisis situation there will be a rushed aspect to it where you might not be able to fully spend the time thinking about who’s going to serve certain roles, such as trustee, successor trustee, power of attorney, patient advocate designation, etc.

But if estate planning is done in quadrant two, so to speak, then the proper estate planning goals can be fleshed out, discussed, mulled over.

Which brings me to lesson one:

Lesson One of Estate Planning based on Stephen Covey: Plan ahead with your estate planning, think quadrant two.

The next important take away from Stephen Covey’s situation is his family situation and how I would think about his planning as a Michigan estate planning lawyer helping a client with Stephen Covey’s family make up of a wife, nine children and his grandchildren.

If Stephen Covey was in my office we’d be looking at a plan that would provide for his spouse while she was still alive, as well as providing for the children and grandchildren if his spouse were to pass away.  Most likely we would look at using a seperate trust based estate plan with proper disability documents.  Most likely, Stephen Covey would have a taxable estate, where we may have to do advanced planning integrating irrevocable trusts.  Of course, probate avoidance would be a key part of his plan.

Also, if Stephen Covey had a large amount in his retirement account we may look at setting up retirement plan trusts to manage those retirement accounts for the benefit of his kids and grand-kids, where due to the minimum required distributions (MRD’s) for younger individuals, the accounts may grow with interest larger than the MRDs.

Which brings me to lesson two:

Lesson Two of Estate Planning based on Stephen Covey: Estate Planning may seem simple, but every situation is different.

The last lesson from Stephen Covey’s situation stems from how he passed away.  Stephen Covey ultimately passed away from a freak biking accident.  It wasn’t planned, didn’t fit into their life, they didn’t have it on the calendar.  Lesson three is simple and I share it with my clients all the time.

Lesson Three on Estate Planning from Stepehen Covey: Life Throws Curveballs, Plan Accordingly.

Often current events make certain topics top of mind, if you have questions about estate planning for your family, please call our Oakland County Estate Planning law firm at (248) 481-4000.





Contact us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Our Newsletter

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Subscribe by email:
For Email Newsletters you can trust

Recent Posts



  • Michigan Elder Law Attorneys & Lawyers | Michigan Elder Law Center
  • Michigan Estate Planning Lawyers & Attorneys
  • Tulsa Estate Planning Blog