Educating Your Family About Your Estate Planning
It’s back to school time, so I thought I would write this month about educating your family about your estate plan. If you don’t have an estate plan, educate yourself at my seminar at Gentech Support located at 402 E. Greenway Parkway. More information about that at the end of my article!
If you have done estate planning or are in the process of putting a plan in place, it’s a good idea to educate the people who you have appointed as trustees or executors and also to your family about what you’ve done. Here are some of the primary items you should discuss with them.
Let them know who is in charge of your estate if you are incapacitated and on your death.
When you put your estate plan in place, you had to answer important questions: Who do you want to put in charge of your estate, if you are incapacitated and need someone to care for you? Who do you want to wrap up your estate at your death? For those with minor children, who do you want to serve as guardians? You also should discuss this with the people you are asking to serve. Often that initial discussion results in making changes to who will serve.
For instance, one of my clients recently planned to pick his oldest son to be in charge of his estate. When he discussed this with his oldest son, he discovered that his son didn’t want the responsibility. The son had two young children and a business that was growing and didn’t feel he could give it proper attention. My client’s daughter, however, gladly agreed to serve.
Another couple discovered that their intended guardian for the children didn’t have quite the same values they did in raising children. They decided to choose someone else.
Whoever you have selected, explain to your children who you’ve chosen to serve and why. This assures that there are no surprises later, avoiding upset heirs and all of the problems that can create. Also, getting the advance commitment of your executor to serve makes your estate plan that much more solid.
Let them know where you keep your important papers and financial information.
Another item to discuss with your trustee or executor is where to find what they need if something happens to you. If your executor doesn’t know you still have an account at the bank in the town you left 20 years ago, that money will go to unclaimed property. Your heirs will not get the benefit of it. Similarly, if they don’t know you’ve done an estate plan, or don’t know where you put it, how will they follow the wishes you’ve set out in the plan?
I recommend that my clients keep an annually updated list or file folder with information on all of the assets they own – their real property, bank accounts, stock portfolios, IRAs 401(k)s, etc. An easy time to update this list or file is at tax time when you are likely receiving tax documents from many of those accounts.
Last, be sure they know where to find the list and where to find your estate plan – and your estate planning attorney.
Educate them on the types of assets you own.
Make sure your executor knows what types of assets they will be dealing with. They may be aware you have a home and a 401(k), but that may be all they know. One client of mine was surprised to find that his mother had oil and gas interests in several states. Another never realized that his uncle had an interest in the family vacation home he thought his father owned outright. If you have a business, be sure your executor knows what he or she needs to do to deal with that important asset. A business succession plan may be a vital and necessary part of your estate planning.
Educate yourself on estate planning, create a plan, and leave a legacy.
I often say that if you don’t have a will or trust, don’t worry! The state has a plan for you and your estate. It just might not be what you would have wanted. If you don’t have a plan, work with an experienced estate planning attorney to put a plan in place, tailored to you and your estate. If you have a will or trust that was made more than 2-3 years ago, have it reviewed by an attorney to be sure it is up to date.
Creating your estate plan is a way to protect and provide for your loved ones after you die. Having a plan can help decrease your family’s stress and uncertainty when something happens and they need to step in during your incapacity or death. No one loves your family like you do, so make sure that you’ve done what you can to protect them and to make your wishes known and legally enforceable.
My next education seminar on estate planning is scheduled on September 17, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. at Gentech Computer Support located at 402 E. Greenway Pkwy. Check my website for information and registration, https://libbybanks.com/special-events or email Andy@libbybanks.com. Or, to make an appointment for a free initial consultation or trust review, call at 602-375-6752 or book online at https://libbybanks.com/schedule-estate-planning-meeting.