Some advice just bears repeating, regardless of one's age and station in life. For example, "Do not run with sissors across a toy-strewn family room" makes good sense whether one is young or young at heart.
So it goes with estate planning fundamentals.
In that spirit, a recent article in Financial Planning, titled “Estate Planning: Help Seniors Avoid These Mistakes,” dispenses a little sage advice to older parents who want to keep peace in the family at their passing ... and avoid leaving a big mess to sort out.
As the article noted, it is essential for parents to communicate their wishes far ahead of time.
This goes without saying.
In fact, the more detailed the communication, then the greater the opportunity for all concerned to understand "the plan," voice any disagreements over that plan now and prepare themselves emotionally for what is to come later.
In the absence of intragenerational communication about your estate plan, conflicts can and do arise between children over matters significant and even petty.
And family feuds can get rather ugly, too.
For instance, I frequently see disagreements over decisions regarding final arrangements, to include burial or cremation, visitation and funeral.
I have seen adult children almost come to fisticuffs over the burial or cremation decision alone!
Consequently, you really should make sure your personal, health care and financial affairs are in order with as much detail as you can muster.
Did you know more than half of Americans die without a will and most without any instructions at all about how their estate should be settled?
Without a will, the local probate court will determine how assets will be disbursed to family members by degree of relationship via state intestacy laws .
While you are at it, also review beneficiary designations on any life insurance, annuities and retirement plans you may have.
Incorrect or incomplete beneficiary designations can cause assets to be distributed contrary to your current wishes.
Your wishes may have changed over time.
For example, if an ex-spouse is yet the beneficiary of your ERISA retirement plan (think 401k or profit sharing), then he or she will inherit it even if contrary to state law. See Egelhoff v. Egelhoff.
That will put some grits in your jelly.*
On a very practical note, the original article advises people make sure there is sufficient cash available to cover all of the costs associated with their passing.
Commonly, cash for this specific purpose can be held in an account one or more "trusted" family members can easily access. Without this, it can take months for accounts can be accessed for these purposes.
Want to make sure you have everything ship-shape when it comes to your estate to avoid conflict in the tribe at your passing?
Contact an experienced estate planning attorney. He or she can help you get and stay organized when it comes to your estate planning.
* I just made up this expression out of whole clothe, having spent some time in "the South" this past week.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: Financial Planning (May 12, 2015)“Estate Planning: Help Seniors Avoid These Mistakes”