Let’s try to ease the task a little, and make it indeed interesting, innovative, uncomplicated, and even gratifying, whether you’re dealing with your own or someone else’s
We plan and structure our estates to assure that our affairs will be managed and our wishes honored, all with the least shrinkage, in the quickest time, in the most simple and effective manner, and with minimum conflict. Surely worth the effort, right?
The good news is that it’s all do-able in a feel-good way, and without having to master the enormous, intricate and daily-changing law, financial, tax, and legalese demons that our expert specialized professional helpers love.
“Okay, Gary, thanks, but (smugly) there already is a plan.” But if it’s out of date, incomplete or inadequate, you’re setting up for even worse disasters than having no plan at all could cause.
For example, how would you like to be entangled in an estate whose legal documents, including insurance policies, still direct assets to a former spouse, disinheriting the deserving current one and the subsequently born children?
Or, imagine the intestate (invalid or conflicting wills, or none at all) estate, mercilessly mandated by state law to distribute heirloom assets, such as the family home, among one’s creditors, or to a spouse’s estate.
The costs of fighting and correcting the blunders can decimate the estate’s already smaller-than-hoped-for value.
Or, you’re embroiled in an under-planned, under-funded, liquidity-starved estate, forced to sell cherished and needed family assets, and at distress-sale prices, to raise cash to pay expenses and taxes.
Or demented Dad failed to create a health care directive, so you’re into a gut-wrenching impasse with other family members about where he is to be cared for.
Wouldn’t it be so much better to get it all right and complete to start with – and to keep it so – so that the events and affairs will process smoothly and wisely, and legacies will pass on as intended? Let’s look at how to accomplish that.
“Square One” is no surprise: thinking, introspection, identifying and fully understanding the issues, followed by soul-searching and “marinating” the various options. The goal is well thought-out and well-tailored solutions.
I think it’s wise to seek wisdom from appropriate helpers whose understanding and judgment impress you, including the professional team and from the affected family members. Utilize the information assembled via your “discovery” and “doomsday manual” projects.
Then, after this soul-search, you’ll be set to make decisions and to begin building the plan. How-to’s, documentary tools, knowledge, ideas, resources and skilled professionals abound. We’ll examine some later on.
What issues should you consider? Here, to reiterate or to supplement the ones that you’ve thought of, are some suggestions:
OK, once you’ve thought through all of future living, then advance to pondering the “at-death” stage.
Besides the obvious who-gets-what-and-when bequest issues and the funerals, we need to work out some other issues, too:
For example, a mentally challenged child needs legally empowered financial stewardship. Who should that steward be?
Or, one legatee’s share needs protection from a spendthrift spouse or insulation from the “means test” for a government entitlement benefit.
Or, one needs to live in the family home for a while with the family’s condonance, and with compensating benefits for the others.
“Gary, you’ve dumped a bunch of questions on me. I’ll decide my answers, but you haven’t told me how to make them happen.” You’re right, but let’s give you time for serious thinking. The “happening” will begin next time.
Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I welcome your comments and ideas.