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  • Writer's pictureJeffrey Helsdon

Estate Planning as a Powerful Exercise in Optimism

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Many scientific studies have established that there is a wide range of benefits flowing from a positive attitude and positive thinking. At a time when many are focused on worst-case scenarios and gloomy predictions, you can resist the pull of negativity and embrace the beneficial results of positivity. This is not just an attempt to make yourself feel better in spite of reality, but rather to take full advantage of the proven benefits of positivity. You can increase not only your own well-being but also that of your children or other beneficiaries by creating an estate plan designed to promote their happiness, which in turn, will enable them to live healthier and more successful lives. Fortunately, if you are someone for whom it does not come naturally, positive thinking can be learned by surrounding yourself with positive people, deliberately engaging in positive self-talk, and living a healthy lifestyle, just to name a few common methods. Health Benefits of Positivity According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking has a multitude of health benefits, including an increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, more psychological and physical well-being, better cardiovascular health and less risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills.[1] Happiness, a byproduct of a positive attitude, has repeatedly been shown to boost the immune system, with studies showing that happy people who were exposed to illnesses were less likely to become sick or had milder symptoms than others who were less happy.[2] Impact of Positivity on Success Dr. Martin Seligman, a well-known researcher in the field of psychology, has found that those who are happy and satisfied with their lives are more likely to have desirable outcomes in school, work, social relationships, health, and life in general. Negative emotions narrow our perspective, driving us toward a single, instinctive action (reacting to danger) while ignoring everything else around us. In contrast, positive emotions are accompanied by a broadened perspective that allows us to see and examine a variety of options and then choose the one we believe is best for that moment. Those who tend to be more optimistic are more likely to establish clear life goals, focus on different ways to reach their goals, and believe that their goals will become a reality. Hopeful people view negative events as temporary setbacks or isolated unfortunate events. As a result, they are more resilient and able to handle challenges and view them as learning experiences. They have confidence that they can take action to improve their lives, and thus, are more likely to do just that. Use Your Estate Plan to Create Positivity and Appropriate its Benefits for Your Beneficiaries Rather than focusing primarily on negative goals, such as preventing a spendthrift child from wasting his or her inheritance, view your estate planning as a way to pass along a positive legacy. One method is to create an ethical will that shares your important values, religious beliefs, life lessons, and blessings with your family members. An ethical will, which could be in written or video form, is something that could be shared during your lifetime as a way of drawing family members closer together, or it could be one of the most meaningful gifts you leave for family members when you pass away. The positive emotions that come from the enhanced relationship and knowledge that they are loved could be a powerful catalyst that increases the well-being of your family. In addition, you can provide funds for activities that create positive experiences for your beneficiaries, ultimately enhancing their well-being. Although providing financial security for family members and loved ones is clearly a positive goal, rather than simply thinking of your wealth as a way for your children or loved ones to acquire more “stuff”, you can be more deliberate and thoughtful about your estate planning, setting aside money for meaningful experiences, e.g., family trips, schooling, or volunteer activities, that will allow your beneficiaries to flourish and develop their strengths and interests. In fact, research shows that experiential gifts (gifts of events that recipients experience) result in a stronger relationship between the giver and the gift recipient than material gifts, even if the gift giver does not experience the event with the recipient.[3] The improvement in the relationship is the result of the positive emotions that are experienced while the recipient is experiencing the gift. These positive emotions also can ultimately increase their physical and mental well-being and likelihood of success in life.

Let Us Help You Achieve a Positive Goal During this time of crisis, a positive attitude is more important than ever. We can help you think through and identify the ways you can incorporate positivity into your estate planning, which will provide you with the confidence and peace of knowing that you are not only providing your family with financial security, but also that you are leaving a positive legacy that will promote your loved ones’ physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and future success. Please call us today to schedule a telephonic or Zoom meeting so we can discuss how you can best achieve your positive estate planning goals.

[1] “Positive Thinking: Stop Negative Self-Talk to Reduce Stress,” last visited April 16, 2020,

[2] Mark Holder, “Happiness and Your Immune System,” Psychology Today, June 9, 2017,

[3] Cindy Chan and Cassie Mogilner, “Experiential Gifts Foster Stronger Relationships than Material Gifts,” 43(6) Journal of Consumer Research 913 (April 2017), https://acade

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