Estate Planning

There is nothing like the death of your last parent to bring out underlying family hostilities and to magnify them. If your family has any dysfunction, rest assured, when that parent dies it will hit the fan. Don’t let that happen. Be sure to make a list of personal property you own and how you want it distributed, especially sentimental items that can mean so much to your children and about which they will be particularly sensitive. Better yet, if it is something you don’t need or want anymore, give it to loved ones while alive. There is great joy in giving a treasured item and knowing one of your possessions will be treasured by your loved one when you are gone. Make it easy on your loved ones. Prepare for your death. Write your own obituary. Leave written instructions as to what you want in the way of notice and burial or cremation and what type of funeral or service you want. Be sure you have a Will and you understand exactly what will happen upon your death. You should review each and every asset you have and know exactly what will happen to that asset upon your death. Make sure you know who the beneficiaries are on all accounts. Be sure you consider what passes outside the Will and its impact on what is left by way of the Will. For some cases, the Will is just a back up plan and everything can pass automatically. Think long and hard about who you put in the position of winding up your affairs and the impact that will have on others. Communicate with all involved so that they know what should occur, and distribute all documents to those involved so that everyone is aware of what should happen. Lack of disclosure creates unease and uncertainty and leads to anxiety and distrust. Don’t leave your children with uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to discuss what happens upon your death. The last gift you can give your children is a smooth, easy settlement of your estate so that if there is a possibility of fostering a better relationship among your children in the future, your death will not contribute to further unrest. My mother, prior to her death, distributed certain special treasures she knew that each child wanted and would appreciate. I look at those items now and think of my mother. My mother also listed each of her children on her major asset, her stock account, and upon her death each child received his/her equal share, immediately, without issue and without having to wait for any estate process. Many accounts today can simply be transferred automatically upon death. Don’t postpone your arrangements. Your children and heirs will thank you long after you are gone.

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