So, if Mom and Dad are serious about having a discussion with their family about their estate planning intentions, then it is best to let it all hang out while everyone involved is present.
What if your family or culture is averse to raising such topics around the holidays? Consider arranging an annual meeting to let family members know where an estate plan stands.
According to the original article, when combing through assets remember that no item is too small for discussion. [Think Uncle Fred's ceramic bullfrog collection.]
During the holidays, however, be prepared for emotions to run high. Nevertheless, now is a perfect time to discuss items of seemingly insignificant value that may take on added significance for each potential heir later on.
These discussions are going to make people uncomfortable.
But even though you cannot compel family members to participate against their will, this in itself can yield valuable information about those family members through their reactions.
For example, the article points out that a family member who skips out on these meetings because of the emotional toll may not be the right person to take on power of attorney or to serve as executor of the will.
In fact, the first meeting might be a great time to address that discomfort and consider bringing in an estate planning attorney to make recommendations. Some estate planning attorney may be willing to serve in such roles.
While conceding that there is no guarantee that the holidays are the best time to set an estate plan in motion, it does provide a natural opportunity to address concerns and answer questions about the future.
As the family grows and changes, these meetings can help address such issues as why the parents want a child's name added to their bank account to help ward off fraud and how they want their personal, health care and financial decisions made should the parents become incapacitated.
This is important stuff.
Do not go it alone. Consult an experienced estate planning attorney to help guide you and your loved ones through the estate planning process.
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.
Any visitor to my conference room is immediately struck by large portraits of two of my favorite men of all time: Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
The latter led the Colonies to victory over England, then refused popular demand to be King instead of President over the new Republic. The former would secure that Republic from division some four score and seven years-ish thereafter.
In the midst of the conflict known as the Civil War, the War between the States, or the recent unpleasantries (depending on one's sincerely held perspective), President Abraham Lincoln issued his Proclamation for a "day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens" to be set aside and observed by all Americans on the last Thursday of November.
Here is the full text:
Washington, D.C. October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State
May that same Beneficient Father richly bless you and these United States of America as we take stock of our many individual and collective blessings. At the same time, may we individually and collectively remember our attending responsibilities to God, country and one another in an ever more challenging world.