Taming The ‘Black Swan’

A recent bestselling book in the business-management genre had hedge fund magnates speed-dialing their therapists by proclaiming the discovery -- and ubiquity -- of a feathered animal theretofore presumed extinct, or merely mythical: The Black Swan.

Penned in 2007 by Oxford economics professor Nassim Taleb, the eponymous tome reverse-engineered some of history’s most pivotal -- but as Taleb would have it, misunderstood -- events to arrive at the bold conclusion that, to paraphrase the popular bumper-sticker, “(expletive) happens.”

In other words, expect the unexpected.

The book’s impact on Wall Street was far-reaching, invoking the rather sinister but as it turned out, helpless, feeling among wing-tipped executives that even a runaway bull market was vulnerable to episodes of random collapse, and that no amount of “hedging” could contain the fallout. 

As poetic justice would have it, The Black Swan hit bookshelves on the very eve of the Lehman Brothers collapse, ushering in the Great Recession and, one imagines, topping-off therapists’ appointment books all over Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Not that The Black Swan unfairly singled-out the Dow Jones Industrial Index. World War I, the collapse of the Soviet Union and -- as Taleb theorizes -- the tragic events of 9/11 were all ‘black swans’, or large-scale events that swooped in from left-field, unannounced and sometimes very much unwanted, but in each case, bringing profound and globe-warping changes home to roost.

Thankfully, although Taleb’s beaked harbinger of doom may yet continue giving fits to fund managers, the cartography division of Rand McNally and other meta-sized concerns, when applied to the context of individual estate planning, the black swan can be rendered sufficiently docile and tame for the petting zoo. For, unlike the unforeseen global earthquakes of 9/11 or the Great War, our personal lives and estates are subject to strict and time-tested guidelines that safeguard our decisions pertaining to end-of-life and beyond.

But estate plans can protect against the unknown only if they're completed before tragedy strikes.

A comprehensive estate plan that includes powers of attorney and a will or trust truly is a “personal black-swan insurance policy” of sorts that, come what may, guarantees that your assets and life-decisions will be carried-out to the very letter of the law, blissfully free of ornithological meddling.

Want to secure your estate against the ‘black swan’? Call the estate-planning professionals at Gale & Nielsen for a complimentary half-hour appointment: (707) 269-0167.