The holiday season is a time that we typically slow down with work or other activities and focus a bit more on friends, family, and loved ones. Since we are taking a break from normal activities to spend time with those we love, it is a perfect time to think about talking to your family about estate planning. I have provided a quick primer here to think about for your immediate family and how you can present this subject to your loved ones before it is too late.
First, You Should Care About Estate Planning
Estate planning can be a topic that people don’t really want to get into because the subject of our possible incapacity or immortality is not something that we like to think or talk about. Many times, my clients think that getting an estate plan done is going to feel a bit like a dentist appointment. At least here, in our office, we strive to make planning fulfilling and sometimes even a bit fun. You need to approach the subject because it is important for your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your family. Some studies estimate that only six of ten Americans have an estate plan at all. Many of these are out of date. It has been estimated that about $30 trillion will pass from baby boomers to their families in the next few years. Much of this wealth will go to court fees because people often bury their heads about creating a will or a trust. You can do this and it’s important that you do!
Timing is Important
It is important to set aside a time dedicated to the topic of estate planning. It is important that everyone know their roles. Dave Ramsey isn’t an attorney and when I have heard him speak about estate planning, he gets it about 90% right. One thing that he talks about that I love is that he discusses how he has family councils to discuss how wealth will pass to his children and he ensures that they will be good stewards of the wealth that he is giving. This is vital to make sure that family does not squabble when someone passes. If you have not had a family council before on any subject and you feel awkward about starting now. Address the fact that it is a little uncomfortable head on and say that you are calling the gathering because it is important to you.
Once you have a specific time set aside, make sure that the environment is free of distraction and you have an agenda. Some formality to the meeting adds weight to the subject so that your family knows it is important. Reserve a time for each family member to voice questions or concerns and be as transparent as possible. Some possible topics of discussion could be:
That you have an estate plan, what it consists of (wills, trusts, Powers of attorney, etc.)
Who oversees medical decisions
Who oversees finances in incapacity and after death
Long term care wishes
Where to locate estate planning documents
The contact information for your trusted advisors (CPAs, attorneys, and financial advisors)
Who should call the meeting
If you are the child of an elder parent and you have no idea what kind of estate plan your parents have, ask them. It is important that you know what your parents’ wishes are if they become incapacitated and when they die so that you can carry out their wishes properly. Tell them that if they become disabled and do not have the right paperwork, you will not be able to take care of them without court intervention. Some are hesitant to address the fact that mortality is 100% certain for all of us, especially as they age, but be supportive of older family members.
We often hold "fiduciary meetings" for our clients in our office. This is an opportunity to tell those in charge what it is that they are expected to do, etc. If you would like to create or update an estate plan and would like us to set up a fiduciary meeting following its creation, please call at (951)304-3431