Estate Planning: Easy Steps That Make the Difference (Part 3)
Recently, we discussed how to simplify property management and decision-making in case of absence or incapacity of a person. Then we touched upon some general rules of succession, access to “digital assets” and transfer of property to minors upon death (see part 1 and part 2 of the article). Now we will talk about mitigation of conflicts that may arise when our significant ones manage our affairs and perform our wishes. Here are some basic tips you all know about – just make sure to keep them in mind.
1. Discuss your instructions with people you want to appoint as your executors, attorneys or agents
The more you discuss your instructions with people you want to rely on, the better they understand your wishes and the easier it is for them to do their best in difficult times. Also, you may want to make sure that your executors, attorneys and agents share your values, and you do not have to add details or change your plan.
By way of example, a conflict of values may arise in respect of funeral/ burial instructions. While executors pay out funeral expenses out of the property left by the deceased (aka the estate), they are not bound by the deceased’s funeral/ burial wishes, whether the wishes are documented or not. Simply put, the body of the deceased is not a piece of “property” in this context, while the deceased’s assets are.
2. Share intentions with your significant ones
Let your significant ones know who and to what extent will take care of you and your family, disclose your estate plans and explain the reasons for your decisions. This strategy makes your family members prepared and helps to mitigate conflicts down the road. Here is why.
First, there can be lots of good reasons for your decisions regarding personal care or unequal distribution of property. To name a few, those can be your personal values, beneficiaries’ illness, age or lack of know-how to manage the assets, or significant gifts to some of your family members during your lifetime. While these reasons are obvious for you, you may need to put more efforts into making them valid for others. Also, you may want to reconsider and change your instructions as a result of the discussions with your significant ones.
3. Leave more details
Let some of your friends or family members know what documents you prepared and where you keep them, explain when they may need those documents and what initial steps they should take if anything happens to you. In practice, this knowledge saves lots of time, money and energy.
Where your significant ones are not prepared to dig into details, just make sure that they have contacts of a wills & estate lawyer handy. If you have your will package prepared by a lawyer, let them know the lawyer’s contact details.
Usually, I give my business card and other information together with the will packages I prepare for my clients. If you have it from me – do not be fast to put it into the garbage. While in part this is a marketing tool, there is also a more philanthropic reason for that. First, it is often a lifeline for many people in hardly emotional times, as the lawyer knows the deceased’s situation and the job. More importantly, the lawyer will usually keep copies of all the documents and details of the discussions with the client. This information will be really valuable if anything happens to the original documents or a dispute arises.
So, do your homework to make it easier for your significant ones to take care of your affairs when things go wrong.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and should not be considered as legal or other professional advice. To get detailed information regarding your specific circumstances, please discuss your situation with the author or another lawyer.