All too often people neglect to plan their estates properly, and instead rely on their loved ones to “know” what to do after death. People hope for the best, and believe what they want to happen will happen. However, most will pass away without the certainty of knowing his or her intent will be honored. For them, it is a roll of the dice or the drop of a lottery ball. There is no more confidence or peace of mind in death than there is for any game of chance. Here are three ways you can stop relying on luck when it comes to your estate plan
Be Clear and Specific
Each state has laws governing the passing of assets upon death, but those laws do not include individualized preferences. Rather, these laws establish a baseline upon which individuals can build their specific estate planning preferences. It is better to articulate your expectations in advance rather than placing the burden to work out the details upon our grieving loved ones. Rarely are these sorts of details easily sorted out when survivors are left to make decisions only you can make. Explicitly detailing your choices removes luck from the equation and guarantees a peaceful distribution of assets, leaving your loved ones with clarity and peace of mind that your wishes will be honored.
Get the Help of an Attorney
We all have been in a situation where we have read some instructions and they just didn’t make any sense. Fortunately, today we can search for how-to videos online that show us exactly the steps to take. After hearing the instructions aloud and seeing them in action, the written instructions that caused us such a headache finally make perfect sense. As an attorney and counsellor, one of my jobs is to be an interpreter, taking my clients’ spoken intentions and transcribing them in a way that generations to come may understand. Regardless of how much practice we have honing the craft, there always will remain a benefit to hearing the client’s words spoken from the client directly. Why, then, do clients not share intent with their loved ones?
Have the Difficult Conversations with Your Loved Ones
Often called “dysfunctional politeness,” we avoid conversations that make us uncomfortable, to our own detriment. We don’t like to talk about how much money we make, or the size of our bank account, or even whether we intend to include someone in our last wishes at all. Part of this behavior is protective; we may be embarrassed by the expectations and realities of our worth when measured in dollars, or we fear being victimized by people who know exactly what we have.
Whatever the reason, we instinctively behave in such a way that causes those we leave behind to be ignorant of our intentions. Many grandparents place a high priority on their grandchildren’s education, and rightly so. However, if they rely on the “luck of the law,” then those assets may never reach the grandchildren. Even if the child thinks education is important, maybe his or her own immediate life needs take priority of the distant potential needs of the grandchildren. This can occur when there are major medical expenses, divorces, lawsuits, bankruptcies, etc.
Although it is not necessary for a client to share all of the details of his or her estate plan with their loved ones, there is wisdom in having a conversation with them while you are alive. There’s no better way for them to know what you feel in your heart than to tell them yourself. That way when the time comes, rather than deciphering the legalese of some documents, they already know your intentions and can better understand the purpose of those documents.
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