Friday, October 13, 2017

Estate Planning: Want it to be easy after you're gone? It's the "who", not the "what" that matters most.

Routinely clients state "I want to make it as easy as possible on my loved ones after I am gone.  Should I do a trust instead of a will?"  My answer usually causes their head to cock slightly, not expecting my response.

"It's not so much the vehicle or tool of estate planning you choose that makes things easier and less messy, it's the person you nominate to be in charge.  If the person nominated is overwhelmed, unskilled in these types of decisions, or caustic, you'll have a mess whether it's a will or a trust."  And then I see their heads nod, yes, in agreement.

"Who will be in charge" becomes a critical question.  My suggestion to clients is to aim for Switzerland: who is neutral, precise, and efficient?  That may be a relative, a close family friend, or possibly an institution like a bank or accounting firm.

When attempting to fill this role in your end of life affairs, picture the people you are considering doing the following:

  • if you have a will, filing it with the court;
  • closing all active banking and investment accounts;
  • notifying and paying all final creditors;
  • filing your last income tax;
  • selling your real estate, vehicles and other property;
  • distributing family photographs and other personal items;
  • disposing of unused medications;
  • re-homing any pet companions you  may have had; and
  • emptying the contents of your home all the way to cleaning out the fridge.
It's a lot of work.  It's emotional work.  It's work that may ruffle feathers within a family.  Who will be neutral.  Who will follow your wishes.  Who will not be crippled my emotion?  Who will not be afraid to tackle the expenses and numbers?  When you do that analysis you increase the chances your departure from Mother Earth will be less difficult on the loved ones you leave behind.  

Thank you for reading, and remember that a blog is not legal advice.  You should always consult with an attorney in your home state to obtain up-to-date information specific to your situation.