Estate Planning Essentials for Parents of Young Children with Bahar Geslin

Episode cover art featuring Bahar Geslin

If Money Were Easy

Hosted by Mary Beth Storjohann and Neela Hummel

Estate Planning Essentials for Parents of Young Children with Bahar Geslin

Graphic of a photo of Mary Beth and Neela with a blue banner that reads,
If Money Were Easy
Estate Planning Essentials for Parents of Young Children with Bahar Geslin

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Episode Summary

Today we dive into the meaningful topic of estate planning for families with young children with special guest, Bahar Geslin. Bahar is an estate planning attorney with a unique background in psychology, joins Neela and Mary Beth to shed light on the often overlooked aspects of financial planning for your children’s future. From tax planning to guardianship decisions, Bahar shares valuable insights and guidance on how to navigate the complexities of estate planning. Join us as we explore the fears, uncertainties, and practical steps necessary to ensure the well-being and security of your loved ones. If you have young kids and want to take control of your estate planning, this episode is for you!

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • The importance of estate planning and how it varies by state
  • What to think about when choosing guardianship for your children
  • A quick review of documents to add to your trust
  • What it means to fund your trust and how to do it
  • How Bahar uses her psychology background to help clients with estate planning documents
  • The biggest reason people don’t start getting their estate in order
  • A great exercise to ensure your intentions are known for your children
  • What life events might require you to update estate planning documents (and how often)
  • The importance of simply getting started and how estate planning attorneys can guide the process

Resources Mentioned on the Show:

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Transcript of the Episode

Mary Beth [00:00:14]:

Hey there. Welcome to the If Money Were Easy podcast, the show where we teach you how to expand what’s possible with your money. We’re your hosts Mary Beth Storjohann – 

Neela [00:00:23]:

And Neela Hummel –

Mary Beth [00:00:24]:

Certified financial planners and Co-CEOs of Abacus Wealth Partners. Today on the show, we are talking about estate planning. Before we jump in, a brief disclosure from our compliance department. This podcast is for educational purposes and is not intended as investment, legal, or tax advice. Any opinion shared is not an opinion of Abacus Wealth Partners. 

Neela [00:00:48]:

So today on the show, we are joined by the lovely Bahar. I actually just got the pronunciation of your last name, so I’m going to see how I do. Geslin. 

Bahar [00:00:58]:


Neela [00:00:58]:

Right? Okay. spelled G-E-S-L-I-N. But Bahar is an experienced attorney with a demonstrated history in trusts and estates, probate and trust administration. She has had her own legal practice for over a decade with a focus on trusts and estates. Bahar, welcome to the show. 

Bahar [00:01:17]:

Thank you. Thank you, Neela. Thank you, Mary Beth. I’m so happy to be here. 

Mary Beth [00:01:21]:

Thanks for joining us.

Bahar [00:01:22]:

I’m a huge podcast listener or consumer, I would say, but this is the first time I’m on a podcast. It’s very, very exciting for me. 

Neela [00:01:31]:

Ooh, longtime listener, first time caller. Love it. 

Bahar [00:01:34]:


Mary Beth [00:01:35]:

Yay! First experience. 

Neela [00:01:37]:

So one of the reasons that we invited you on this show, Bahar, is you’re just, I think, one of the best estate attorneys that I’ve had the privilege of working with over the last decade and a half, and particularly in working with families with young children. So to kick us off, why is estate planning important, particularly for parents and individuals with young kids? 

Bahar [00:02:04]:

So, first of all, I am a licensed attorney in California. That’s where we’re all sitting. And so if we have listeners that are out of state or out of the country, you have to check with your local rules. Everything that I say, some of it will apply generally to everyone, but I’ll be talking about numbers and thresholds, and that really is California specific. So in California, if you own real property, whether it has a mortgage or not, or you have more than let’s say, I’m just going to use a round number, $200,000 in gross assets, so not taking into account any debt or liabilities and you pass, your estate will go through a court system. We have these different court systems. There’s traffic, small claims, criminal, civil, family. And then we have this court system called probate. And it’s this desert land where things go. In California, it’s not sufficient to have a will to avoid probate. You have to have a trust. And the trust says, this is who I am, this is what I have. This is who it’s going to, and this is who I put in charge. I’m getting to your question, Neela. This is who I put in charge. If something happens to me, if you have minor kids, you want to say who is going to be in charge. That’s why it’s so important, because you don’t want it to be left up to your family or your friends who are looking at each other and saying, “Is it you? Is it me? Is it both of us?” You want to put into writing who’s in charge of your assets on behalf of the kids. If you’ve got adult children, I mean, I’m of the opinion that everyone should have an estate plan, and I’ll talk more about what that is. That’s sort of a term of art, because there are all these other words that we hear – trust, will, powers of attorneys. I think it’s important to know what those all mean. But they all fall under the umbrella of an estate plan. And when you have little kids, you really want to direct who they’re living with if something should happen to you and their other parent, possibly your spouse, and then who’s managing that money on behalf of them? If your kids are adults and they have to go through probate, it’s a huge bummer, because probate fees are assessed on the gross value of your estate. So it’s a lot of money, and it takes years. It just does. But they’ll get it eventually. They’ll pay probably thousands and thousands of dollars, and it’ll take them years, but they’ll get it eventually. 

Mary Beth [00:04:50]:

That’s a good point. Eventually it’ll work out. Okay, exactly. 

Bahar [00:04:56]:

I say that, I’m like, yeah, they’ll get it. I mean, your legacy is more than your money, and the two of you know that well, because I’ve worked with Abacus a lot, and I know that’s something you discuss a lot with clients is, “What is your legacy?” And so your legacy is definitely more than your money. But what you have earned and worked hard for and spent a lot of energy on, you want as much as possible to go where you want, whether that’s your children or your favorite charity or your friends or your church or your temple or wherever you want to maximize it. So that’s why it’s so important. 

Neela [00:05:38]:

Love it. Just saying it back to you. I mean, it sounds like there’s two big components, and there’s the financial component. Who’s making the decisions around here? Where does the money go? How do we make it kind of as easy as possible? But probably what really hits our listeners in the heart is the human component, and especially if you think about having young kids. I mean, the thing that got me to actually take action on my own estate plan was this idea of having a say in who would support my kids if something happened to my husband and me. It is a hard process that you navigate with clients because it’s super emotional, because you’re kind of thinking about your own mortality. How do you work through that? 

Bahar [00:06:21]:

So I ask clients to not think about – what you’re talking about, Neela, it’s guardianship. So should something happen to you and if you’re married, your spouse or both parents, who are the kids living with, who’s taking them to school, who’s making them breakfast, who’s helping them make big decisions, decisions about their health, all of that. So that title is guardian and who’s going to be their legal guardian? And a lot of times we try to think about who’s going to replace us. And the answer, the truth, is no one can replace us. So we’re asking the wrong question. And I think that’s why a lot of people get stuck is because we’re trying to find this unicorn that doesn’t exist. There is no one person that can replace both parents if they’re two. So we ask other questions like who has similar values? Who’s going to pass on your memory in a way that will live beyond you? Graphically, who makes sense? A lot of my clients have family abroad or on the other side of the country. So we think about that and then what does the family of the guardian look like? So for example, maybe you love your brother and his spouse, but then what if they got divorced? Or what if something happened to one of them? Who are you choosing? Are you choosing the couple or are you choosing your brother? And so there’s a lot of consideration, but I think that when you have somebody that can distill it a little bit and go through it and I always say you know your key players best. I’m not deciding for you, but I want to ask probing questions so that you know what to think about and how to make that decision. And I do think that in one way, deciding who’s going to be guardian is the very hardest decision you’ll make. But when you look at the whole scope of an estate plan, it’s not necessarily the most important. That said, it’s the motivating factor when I estate plan for everybody. But when a young family comes to me, that’s the motivating factor. That’s the thing that’s keeping them up at night. Like, “Oh gosh, we’re taking that first trip, that couple’s trip together, or we’re going on a date night. What if something happens to both of us?” And so that’s definitely the motivating factor. But then I’m like, “That’s great, we’ll figure that out. Let me tell you one million other reasons why we need to do an estate plan.” 

Mary Beth [00:09:05]:

I’m that person. I was like, “But what if something happened?” You hit it right on the head though, because we can’t be replaced. And I’ve talked to a lot of estate planning attorneys, Bahar, a lot, and I don’t think anybody has just summarized it just so succinctly and directly. That is a complete hang up. And that is the lag. And that is what freezes. And it’s also not the most important thing. So I think that is spot on. So a follow up question to that. Does a family need to have answers to all of these questions before they come to you? This idea of like, “Okay, I know I need a will, trust, I need to know who my guardianship is, I need to know who I’m naming for all of those things, and then I’m going to find an estate planning attorney,” or do they just know, “Hey, I probably need help?” And part of that is that you’ll guide them through it, which comes first, right? 

Bahar [00:09:50]:

Some people come and they know. They already know. They’ve talked about it. It’s their favorite topic of conversation at night, or whatever they’ve decided. Other people are like, “We have no idea,” or they have differing opinions. I say come with nothing, it doesn’t matter. Let’s start the conversation. I want to do all the heavy lifting. Of course you are ultimately going to decide, but I’m going to be asking you questions. You may not even understand the question, let alone know how to answer it. So let me explain it first and kind of step back within that, because we were throwing around these terms like estate planning, wills, trust, and you said they may know they need all these things. Most of the time, people call or email me and they go, “I need a will.” 

Neela [00:10:36]:


Bahar [00:10:37]:

And I’m like, “Okay, fine, you’re not supposed to know that I am, but let’s talk about what you really need.” So I like to think of it like this. It’s like we have this universe called estate planning, and the center of that universe is a trust, also known as a living trust or a revocable living trust. Lots of terms, but let’s just call it a trust, so that’s the center of the universe and all these other documents orbit around the trust. So we’ve got the will, the power of attorney, the advanced healthcare directive, a HIPAA release. If you’re in California, it’s important to have a separate HIPAA release. And then some other ancillary documents that I won’t get into. But they all are kind of floating around in the estate planning universe with the trust at the center. And guardianship is named in the will. The will is essentially a dormant document. Nobody looks at it until you die. And if you’ve done your estate planning properly, hopefully no one ever has to look at it. But that is where you name guardians. I also name guardians within the power of attorney, which is an incapacity document. The power of attorney is a document that says if I’m alive but incapacitated, legally incapacitated mentally, I can’t make decisions for myself, this is who I nominate to make those decisions on my behalf. So it’s a general durable power of attorney. It’s also known as an attorney, in fact, or your legal agent. They can do all kinds of things like get your mail or talk to your employer, make elections for insurance that you’re not able to do. Maybe you need to change your insurance, access your retirement accounts, because if you’re alive but incapacitated, no one’s going to let you make any decisions, but you may very well need someone to make decisions for you. But what I was saying about guardianship is I also name the guardian within the power of attorney, because the will being a dormant document and not really having much effect until you die. If you’re alive but incapacitated and you have minor kids, you might want someone to be able to step in on an interim basis while you get better.

Neela [00:12:54]:

If I were to summarize this in talking to my six year-old son, what an estate plan is, and he’s very precocious, but really not all that precocious. An estate plan is basically what happens if you aren’t there to direct things. 

Bahar [00:13:14]:

Yeah, it’s your plan. It’s your roadmap. It’s the roadmap for the people that love you and want to take care of you. What happens if you’re incapacitated and it’s temporary? What happens if you have a permanent incapacity that’s dealt with more in the trust? And then what’s your plan? What do you want if you pass? Where is your stuff going? When is it going there? Let’s talk about your six year-old. Did your six year-old understand? What’s your plan? What’s your plan? What is this? My kids, I have a 12 year-old, nine year-old, and four year-old. So I’m right there in the middle with you. But it’s like, actually, my 12 year-old asked me yesterday, Wednesday, what our plan was for this weekend. So he’s an advanced thinker like me, and yeah, it’s like, what does this look like? What’s going on? What are we having for breakfast? What are we having for lunch? What if the place we want to go for lunch is closed? 

Neela [00:14:15]:

What’s the plan? What’s the contingency plan? What do we do if things don’t go exactly to plan? I like it. 

Bahar [00:14:22]:


Mary Beth [00:14:24]:

I’m going to go into a little bit of an implementation question because I think this is one of the things that’s interesting as well. So, will, probate, you have a trust? Prevent probate. What’s the logistics? You have the trust. And what does that mean? Is it just a piece of paper? What’s the work behind that as well? It’s not just creating the trust. It’s not a check and done. So walk us through what that looks like. Once you have the trust and some of the risks – if you don’t fully fund the trust, which means some of your assets are still held in individual or joint names – what are the risks? 

Bahar [00:14:51]:

Yes. You know so much about it, I can tell from your question, Mary Beth. 

Mary Beth [00:14:54]:

Just experience working with clients and roadblocks. I’m just, exactly. 

Bahar [00:15:00]:

So it’s not enough to have this legal document called a trust. You have to actually fund the trust. Use that term. And that is the correct term for it. Funding the trust doesn’t mean people think, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to pay money, more money. What does that mean?” No, we have this document and now we want to take title to your assets in the name of that document. So the easiest example is you have a house, okay? And the house is owned by Mary Beth and Neela. But now, Mary Beth and Neela, you’ve created this trust, this family trust, this Abacus Family Trust, and we need to change title. Instead of it being owned by Mary Beth and Neela, we want to make sure it’s owned by the Mary Beth and Neela trust. So that’s the process of funding. While we’re on the topic of real property, a concern is often, “Is this going to call my loan due?” Especially right now with interest rates being so high, people are like, “No, nothing to disrupt.” So it does not call your loan due. It does not make your property taxes change. So they will not get reassessed. It’s a non-taxable event. It’s really business as usual. It’s just that it’s titled. So same thing for bank accounts. And then you may ask this question later, or some people may be thinking like, “Can’t I just do this myself? Does it really have to be that complex? Can I do a do it yourself document?” And sure you can. You can do anything you want. I am in litigation, involved in litigation regarding those documents because you don’t have somebody asking you the questions. And there may be a very small portion of the population that they are perfect for, but you won’t know that until you’re gone. So you should definitely talk to an attorney that said the funding isn’t happening. And that’s where people end up in probate court, even if they have a trust because they didn’t fund it properly. And the other thing is, if you have minor kids, if you have your 401(k) or a lot of people have life insurance and you name your spouse or you name your kids outright, they get a big check the day they turn 18. If you have a million dollar policy, whatever it is, they get a big check and you don’t want that. So in many cases, and again, you should consult with your financial advisor, CPA, and attorney before making this decision. But you may want to name the trust as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy or a retirement account. This has to do with funding. So it’s not technically titling something in the name of the trust, but it is directing where the funds go. That’s the other beauty of a trust with minor kids is they’re not just getting everything outright the day they turn 18 or the day you pass, right? If that’s what happens, if you go to probate, you get to say, “Look, I want the trustee or the person in charge of the trust to provide for their needs.” I use an ascertainable standard called HEMS – Health, Education, Maintenance, and Support. It’s very broad. That can be anything from tuition to after school activities, lodging, health care. Like whatever they need. Probably whatever you’re providing for your kids already falls under HEMS. And then when they’re 25, I want them to get 25%, and the balance at 30.

Neela [00:18:29]:

It’s basically a way of putting in – I don’t want to say control – but a little bit more structure and some guardrails, right? Because I don’t know about you, but every 18 year-old I’ve ever met is capable of making the absolute best financial decisions possible. So I’m not sure what we’re protecting from, but hypothetically, if that’s not the case, it precludes the Ferrari purchase at 18. Essentially. 

Bahar [00:18:53]:

Yes, or the great first love, the “what’s-mine-is-yours” kind of situation or the big trip. And so to go back, Mary Beth, to your question about funding, a lot of things are easy if you’re working with amazing financial advisors like you all and your team at Abacus. I just tell the client to send the certification of trust. Boom, boom, boom. They’ve transferred investment accounts and I take care of the real property and then we update beneficiary designations. That’s why I went into that long to-do about beneficiaries, because it is something people get confused about. Like, “Wait, my retirement account that stays in your name…” it’s a tax deferred account, but we can control it a little bit. Or put guardrails in by naming the trust as a beneficiary.

Mary Beth [00:19:37:

Yep, Exactly. 

Neela [00:19:38]:

Yeah. There’s so many connected pieces. We kind of think about the three main players in a client’s life are the CPA or tax professional, the estate attorney, and the financial advisor. And that all three of those pieces tend to work together in making sure that beneficiaries line up with the estate plan, which lines up with the life insurance needs. And where do those life insurance proceeds go when something happens to that person? And are we doing everything in a really tax efficient way that is also most importantly in line with what we want? 

Bahar [00:20:09]:

Right, yeah, because on the financial planning side, a lot of people are doing these great things that are to secure their future and the future of their children. But then there might be that missing piece of the tax planning, like, “Oh, wait, I have a taxable estate, and actually a huge percentage of it is going to go to the government. If something happens to me or on my end, they’re going to get it outright.” That’s more of a curse than a blessing. Like a huge check, I would say, to a young person whose frontal cortex is just getting formed, and they oftentimes want to do the right thing and they just don’t know how. And then there’s the psychological piece of it, too. My background is in psychology. I’m not a psychologist, but I do have a degree in it. So I think a lot of that goes into my process and also into how I advise my clients to plan. Grief is a really tricky thing. And when you mix grief and money, it’s a new chemistry experiment every time. Because everyone grieves differently and everyone has a different relationship with money, and then you add in the added layer of siblings and cousins and aunties and uncles and everyone talking at you, and I’m going to do this and I want to do that. And it can be a real mess. It often is without proper planning. So it’s good to have a good team of people, as you suggested Neela.

Neela [00:21:37]:

I think the psychology is super interesting, and I’m going to admit that I was the cobbler that had no shoes for a while in terms of my own estate plan here. I was encouraging clients to make sure they had that set up, and I was late because I felt frozen. And when I think about the emotion that goes into the work that you do, what do you notice in clients that call you who are looking to do this? What comes up? What are the emotions that come up for them? And how do you help get through those emotions? 

Bahar [00:22:12]:

Yeah, fear. Fear is the underlying thing for all of us, whether it’s about money or estate planning, I think people feel comfortable because I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been doing it long enough. And then I remind them, we estate plan for tomorrow. What happens if something happens to you tomorrow? Because it’s hard to anticipate. Yesterday, I had the privilege of being a newborn’s first Zoom appointment. So it was like mom and dad and three month-old, and we don’t know, we don’t know anything about that darling girl, right? Just that she’s darling. We don’t know her life trajectory. We don’t know her relationship with money. And so we’re trying to plan for this kiddo. And then what her relationship is like today. They were like, “Today, Grandma is the best and closest person to her.” But what is Grandma’s health going to be like in five years, ten years? Is she going to be taking care of an aging spouse? Or will she have her own health issues or cognitive issues? There’s so many unknowns. So I say, “Look, let’s take the pressure off. We’re going to estate plan for tomorrow. You can change this in one month, six months, ten years. Ten years. For sure you will, because maybe you’ll have more children, maybe you’ll live in a different place. So many things will evolve, and we can amend any portion of this at any time.” And people just see dollar signs when you say that. They’re just like, “Well, I don’t want to be back here. It was hard enough to convince me to do it the first time. I don’t want to do it again.” It’s like, well, it’s not redoing the whole thing. Again, it’s just this one slice of it, if that’s what makes sense. And we’re going to have a contingency. We’re going to say grandma for guardian, for example, we’re going to name one of the clients’ moms and then one of their sisters and then a cousin. What happens in practicality is like, people can decline to serve. They’re not in a position to do it. They can say pass. Or in the case of guardian, it’s not that it’s written in the will. So that makes you automatically guardian. Here’s the guardianship papers. No, they have to make a petition with the court, and then the court does their due diligence. They provide the will as evidence in support of their petition. And if they’re not in a position to do it, hopefully they’ll have a conversation with the next in line and say, “Yeah, this doesn’t work or make sense right now. Pass.” That’s my big thing. It’s just for today, let’s take one day at a time. What makes sense for your life right now? And we will take changes as they come, if they come. 

Mary Beth [00:24:54]:

I just changed ours for the third time. We changed ours in eight years. Our daughter, our oldest is eight. So as our family’s lives have changed, we’ve gone through that from an aging situation, from new marriages in the family, and so we’ve been able to pivot. But I think that’s a huge thing to keep in mind is that it’s not locked in. 

Bahar [00:25:13]:

Yeah, absolutely. We’ve changed ours. We have three kids, and as we added children, it’s one thing to ask somebody to take on one child. For two and then three? And then they have more children themselves, and their marriage situation changes? So absolutely, it evolves as your family evolves and as your assets evolve. I know this is a conversation about money and estate planning. One thing I look at when I’m planning, and we talked about those principal distributions, when do they actually get the money in their name, if there’s anything left? And I look at how is somebody invested? Like, maybe right now you’re heavily invested in real estate. Maybe your biggest asset is real property. I don’t want to do a bunch of distributions and force liquidation of that property if it doesn’t make sense. And let’s say now you’re less invested in real estate and your biggest asset is something else and it is easier to liquidate money. We can dole things out as time goes on. So those are all things that you have to consider and that will change as your assets change and grow and your family changes and grows.

Neela [00:26:23]:

Yeah, you mentioned not working with an attorney. You can get these documents done, and there’s probably a slice of the population that it works for. But one of the things that an attorney can bring is the nuance and the unintended consequences that can come with certain decisions. I remember early on learning about a man who inherited tens of millions of dollars from his dad and he had a successful career as a surgeon. But the stipulation in his father’s estate documents were that he could only inherit that money if he was a public school teacher. And so then this surgeon ended up going and teaching Driver’s Ed so that he could receive his inheritance. I’m like, “I don’t think that’s what dad intended,” but maybe he did. I don’t know. 

Bahar [00:27:08]:

Yeah, my job is to carry out your wishes, but also to make sure these documents actually work. No one sees the inside of a courtroom, because I do that side of it. I am a probate attorney, so when somebody passes and they have real property or more than $184,000 in gross assets, then I take them through probate if it’s not contested. I don’t do litigation, and what a drag. Like, nobody wants to be there. I have clients right now, and we’re doing a probate for mom’s property. Parents moved out here from the East Coast, and they were like, “If that’s all it took, we would have done it. We just didn’t have any idea.” They had a will done on the East Coast where they were, but they didn’t know that in California they needed a trust. So they’re like, “Gosh, we would have just done it.” But that informs so much of my estate planning because I’m actually living it and hearing it. And so I know you don’t want to see the inside of a courtroom. It’s, like, long and costs so much money. So let’s make a plan. Now, back to your earlier question. I think that one way to get over the fear is to just start meeting with somebody. That often doesn’t cost much or anything at all, and you can just start and do things little by little in palatable ways. That said, sometimes people go, “Well, can I just do the power of attorney now and the health documents, and then we’ll go and do the trust later?” I don’t work that way because I feel like I’m giving you a false sense of security. We do the whole thing, or we don’t do anything, but there are ways to make it palatable if you work with an experienced attorney that can advise you. 

Mary Beth [00:28:56]:

One of the interesting things, going back to the fear, I know I was really hung up on that, and even after having the estate planning documents done, it’s just the idea of, like, “We’re not replaceable,” and then also of like, “Well, how do I convey all of my hopes and dreams for my children?” I mean, it’s in a legal document. That’s not necessarily the place for it. And so actually, one of the things I just did, I was talking about my sabbatical, finally. My kids are eight and five, but I actually wrote a letter to the post guardians of, like, “Here’s our intention, here’s how we raise them. Here’s how we do our charitable giving at this point in time. Here’s a couple of things.” Which is not a legal document, but at least it’s like something to fold up. And if you need it, great, it’s there. But I think that for me has been something I carried around for years of like, “Well, how do I distill this down? How do I know?” And you can have the conversation. But documenting for my own fear, it was just interesting. And I know I’ve talked to clients about doing this as well. I’m like, “Write a letter. Write a letter of your intentions, spend some time.” And it’s like I kicked the can on it for eight years but finally did it. And I have felt like this sense of peace around it because there is the element of getting the documents in order sort of thing can happen, and then there’s what happens after that that we still obviously can’t control. We’re doing our best guess. But I will say that’s one of the things from a fear component that I know I’ve carried a little bit, and so I know some clients have as well over time. And just the idea of get it on paper, it’s not a legal document, but it might help. Do you ever advise that or religious beliefs like charitable causes? That doesn’t necessarily go in the document, for your hopes anyways, if you’re giving money, that’s one thing. But how do you propose somebody gets that out? 

Bahar [00:30:32]:

Yeah, I hear that from a lot of people, and I’ve definitely experienced that. Maybe being in the estate planning world, I feel like I’m constantly telling my kids things that probably other people don’t tell their kids. And my kids know an inordinate amount about legacy planning and community property and separate property, which I think is also an important conversation to have with your kids. So I absolutely encourage people to write a letter, and I make it really clear, as you did Mary Beth, that it’s not part of your legal plan. These are not legally enforceable things, but the exercise of writing the letter is more you than it is for anybody else. 

Mary Beth [00:31:12]:


Bahar [00:31:13]:

And that is a great thing if you’re struggling with the idea of planning to understand what’s motivating you, not just to do the estate planning, but what’s motivating you in life, like, what are your values? What are the things that are important to you if you have children? What are your dreams and hopes for them? So I think it’s a beautiful exercise. I include something called a Remembrances and Services Memorandum. Again, it’s not a legal document. I will tell you the reaction to this is so varied and has nothing to do with age. Basically, it’s somewhere where you can say, where were you born, the legal names of your siblings, the schools you went to. This is something I have encouraged my parents to do because my parents grew up in India and they’ve told me a million times, but I’m not going to remember where they went to elementary school and middle school and what dates. But that’s information I want to have. And then it also says, what music do you want to play and what poems do you want read? And all of that. So that’s kind of another side of it. And some people love it. They’re like, “This is so great. I would have never thought to ask these questions.” And it really makes things easier for your loved ones. And I think that’s the same spirit with what you’re saying. It’s like this letter that you’ve written that’s hopefully also to help lessen the load if your guardians or trustees know kind of like if they’re deciding, like, oh, private school or public school and they can go to the letter and say like, “This is what Mary Beth thought about that. Or I can extract what her answer would be based on something she said in the letter.” 

Mary Beth [00:33:02]:

Yep, exactly.  

Neela [00:33:05]:

I feel like I’ve got like the warm and fuzzies, which I don’t feel like anybody’s ever said that in relation to estate planning. 

Mary Beth [00:33:13]:

This is really great conversation around estate planning. I’ve never gone this way in an estate planning conversation. 

Neela [00:33:23]:

So good. So let’s carry that energy through to our closing questions. Bahar, I feel like we could go into this further and deeper and spend many hours on this topic, but just love the perspective that you’ve brought on it. I think the intersection of psychology and estate planning doesn’t get enough attention. I think you do a masterful job of weaving the two together. 

Bahar [00:33:44]:

Thank you.

Neela [00:33:45]:

So, our first of three, what is the best financial advice you ever received? 

Bahar [00:33:52]:

Just start somewhere. I think we’ve hit on this from many angles just in the conversation about estate planning, and it relates to financial planning. I remember a financial advisor telling us we needed – I can’t even remember the number because I blocked it from my memory. I had such fear about it, like we needed to put some crazy number away. It wasn’t you. All, by the way, per kid, per month. And we’re like, “That’s more than our mortgage.” Like, if we wanted to send them all to college. And I was just like, “Okay.” And so I think what happened was we just got so scared because we wouldn’t be able to do that number, that we did nothing. And then a few years ago, we’re like, “Okay, something is better than nothing. Start somewhere.” So we just started doing a direct deposit into their 529s. And it’s not anywhere close to what we’ve been advised to do, but it’s what we felt comfortable with. And then every once in a while we’ll inch that number up. So that’s my advice, I think, for anything like whether you’re organizing your junk drawer or financial planning or estate planning, start somewhere, make the call, have a conversation, start talking to your friends about it, do Google research about it, and you will end up doing more than if you did nothing. 

Mary Beth [00:35:14]:

Solid advice. Okay, to pivot, what is your favorite money mistake you’ve made and why? 

Bahar [00:35:21]:

Oh, man, I think I just did it. But I think staying stuck in the fear about it, just being so fearful about the outcome, about the result, it’s like with anything, like eating healthy or exercising, I love to run. Neela and I have this in common, like our love for exercise obsession. 

Mary Beth [00:35:46]:

I do not share the running one. I share the exercise part, though. 

Bahar [00:35:53]:

As parents, it’s like we need that dose of sanity. But sometimes I’ll be like, oh, right now, for example, I’ve been back from vacation for three and a half weeks, but I’m still in vacation mode. I’m still eating like I’m on vacation. I’m still not exercising the way I used to. And it’s like, “Oh, gosh, I won’t be able to do the 3 miles,” which is what I was running before I left. And I get so stuck in that that I don’t do anything right. So it’s what I was saying before. So I think that’s my biggest mistake is not starting somewhere. And for me, when it comes to money, it’s about a lack of clarity. One of the things I ask my clients to do oftentimes at the beginning of our relationship, and that’s how I see it, I tell people, like, “This is not a transaction. This is a relationship.” I ask for a snapshot of their assets, and some people are like, “Cool, let me send you my spreadsheet, right?” And others are like, “Oh, I don’t want to look at the 401(k) because the market is so bad, or I don’t want to look at that.” So I’ve definitely been in a place where I haven’t had the clarity because of fear. And then it just spirals. 

Neela [00:37:12]:

Okay, final question. Fill in the blank. If money were easy… 

Bahar [00:37:18]:

Oh, gosh. I think if money were easy, I would spend more time doing what moves me. I’m really motivated by what I’m moved to do, and I like to investigate what’s the spirit of this activity. That’s why estate planning, it’s like, I did not go to law school to become an estate planner. Other dreams and goals, which we can talk about on another podcast, you should start because both of you are so easy to talk to. But I am highly motivated by “What’s the spirit of this? Is this helpful to people? Is this in service to them? Is this enhancing their life?” And I think that if money were easy – and this is plug for having an amazing team, especially financial advisors – that I think can make it easier so that you’re not having to do those things, then there’s more time and space for doing the things that we’re passionate about and that we love and that fill us up. 

Neela [00:38:25]:


Mary Beth [00:38:27]:

Beautiful. Amazing. Bahar. Thank you so much for joining us. Can you tell our listeners how they can contact you or find you? 

Bahar [00:38:33]:

Yeah, so I think there’s going to be a place to see my website, but it’s and then my email address is and yeah, I look forward to speaking to any of you and answering any of your questions.  

Neela [00:38:50]:

Thank you so much for joining us. 

Mary Beth [00:38:53]:

Thank you for joining us. 

Bahar [00:38:54]:

Thank you. Neela. Thank you, Mary Beth. 

Neela [00:38:58]:

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