Series: Estate Plannings Hardest Questions
#6: Asking Yourself 'Who is Family?'
By Melinda Gustafson Gervasi
Every now and then I'll have a client lean in during our first meeting, where we discuss their life situation and estate planning goals, and nearly whispers "can I name someone other than my relatives?"
"Of course, estate planning is about taking control and nominating the people who are right for the job!" I proclaim.
In the various seminars I give on the topic of estate planning and probate I emphasize the need to ask yourself "who is your family? We share our DNA and branches of a family tree with a group of people. We also share life with a group of people; the joyous celebrations, the mundane tasks of life, and the times of despair. Sometimes they are the same group of people, and sometimes they are two distinct groups.
Personally, I am one who has two different groups. With the exception of my spouse and children, there are people walking the planet who share my DNA or my family tree, but they are not the ones who share in the joys and sorrows of my life. Why the fissure? The reason is immaterial. What matters is asking myself, who is family beyond my spouse and children. They are the people who leave bananas and ginger ale waiting on your counter when they learn you are getting over food poisoning while on a transatlantic flight. They are the people who cheer your 7 year old daughter on for her first ice skating show. They are the people who help you tear soaked carpeting out of your basement following a flood. And they are the people you sit down with to give Thanks at the end of November.
This can be a very hard question for some people to ask themselves. Admitting relatives are not family can sting. But it is a vital question. Who knows you well, who respects your wishes, who brings you support? Those are likely the best suited people to be nominated in your estate plan.
Please remember, a blog is not legal advice. Please seek legal counsel from an attorney in your state of residence. Thank you for reading.