1. Plan Ahead
Giving fair time and energy to your estate plan is like giving fair time and energy to your life, as well as your loved ones. You’re doing this to make an important, yet inevitable transition as easy as possible, after all. The better prepared you are the better prepared they will be. So, think long and hard about the ‘what, when, where, how and why’ of everything you’d like done. If you can share this information with those involved, in advance of your passing, along with getting the answers to any questions or concerns, that can also go miles in making everything easier on not only others but yourself, as well. Peace of mind is priceless for everyone. No one wants to look back thinking, ‘if only I’d had the chance to…’. There are no guarantees, but at least everyone can rest more easily knowing everyone did their upmost.
2. Right Roles for the Right People
Remember the Rolling Stone’s lyrics ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need’? If you want your needs, and the needs of those whom you care about to be met make sure you assign the appropriate people to the appropriate tasks. Don’t give someone a job just because they want it. It is a JOB. If you want the overall goal of the estate plan to succeed you need the right people in the right roles. That being said, if someone assigns you to a certain role and they aren’t around to debate nor do you feel adequately suited to the role, don’t be afraid to bow out. You are not legally obligated to do anything simply because someone assigns you to a role in an estate plan and simply because you don’t take on that role does not mean that you won’t benefit. You might actually benefit more!
3. Focus on the Tone
Maya Angelou once said that “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So, if you want the have a productive chat (and still have fun at Thanksgiving) try to focus on your family having as good an experience as possible versus whom gets what and when. This may involve keeping the matter just between family or involving a mediator or other expert, such as a JD, CFA or CPA. Some additional ways to ensure the overall tone of the experience is made as enjoyable as possible are to have discussions in a location neutral to all involved parties, dispel any myths about how the process works (get the correct data on the good and the bad ie rights and obligations of benefits as well as roles), and remember that no one is entitled.
4. Organize Paperwork
Soon as you know your choices make sure that you have all the necessary documents drafted to make your wishes official. That may include a Will, Power of Attorney, Advanced Health Care Directive, Trust Agreement, Certificate of Trust, Assignment of Property, Assignment of Business etc. It might come down to even just making sure your insurance company has all your current asset information, recording an updated Grant Deed, and/or just making copies of everything important. Also, if you’re dealing with this after your loved one is no longer around make sure you do your research before you start down the probate path. If you’re ever unsure of anything and want to ensure everything is done properly know that there are plenty of experts to ask. You’re not alone.
5. Keep Updating your Estate Plan
Although an estate plan can make sure more is done the way desired than not, a lot can change between creating it and using it. So, it’s important for those involved to know that as circumstances change the estate plan may change. This also means that you don’t have to tackle everything in one meeting. It’s an opportunity for people to prove that they can do certain tasks or for you to earn more to do more, as well. Not to mention, keeping in more frequent contact about serious matters helps to avoid big blow-outs at any point. Estate Planning is a right of passage, so it’s important to do it right. It’s your life and those of your loved ones, after all.