Money and death. Most people (myself included) find these topics difficult to raise with family members. One’s approach to both is necessarily emotional as well as, hopefully, rational – for all parties to the discussion.
But a crucial factor in estate planning is talking with your family about your plans. All too often, family discord after a death creates rifts and can even end in your hard-earned assets diminishing through lack of family harmony.
So, you need to talk about the hard things. Ask for your family members’ input, draw them out about their own plans, goals, and desires.
A thing as small as a silver-plate soap dish can have intense sentimental value for one of your children, but maybe not the other(s).
All your children and grandchildren may want use of the beautiful holiday lakefront home. Maybe some won’t.
By understanding what your heirs want and need, you can devise a plan to be fair to each, while taking account of their individual goals.
But, further than this, in understanding what is needed, you and your financial advisor can structure the way you leave your assets, whether individually or jointly, so that, for example, the vacation house will be professionally managed, and the bills for upkeep and maintenance, insurance, and property taxes will be paid timely. If a number of your heirs want use of the property, you can specify the terms of such use, so that everything is spelled out, no questions are unanswered, and your loved ones can simply enjoy the lake house, under the terms and according to the conditions you have set forth.
For example, if you have four children, and each of them has two children, and all of them want to use the vacation home, it’s not likely that all will be comfortable crammed into the house over the Fourth of July. So, yes, be specific, high-demand dates could be rotated among your children from year to year.
Trusts and limited family partnerships are vehicles which can be used to safeguard both your assets and your directives as to their use – your financial and estate advisor can guide you toward the best type of trust for the purpose you want to achieve, and advise whether a limited family partnership would be a good or a bad idea for you and your loved ones.
Really, you should have two family financial meetings – the first to obtain information on their wants, and to give your heirs a general idea of how you plan to handle your estate; the second, after you’ve taken this information to your financial and estate advisor and your estate attorney, and determined more specifically how you will secure your assets for and to your loved ones.
In this meeting, it’s you who will provide most of the information.
By involving your loved ones in your planning, you can ensure they each feel valued, and heard. This is not only vital to maintaining family harmony but will help them be as comfortable as possible with your arrangements.
Estate planning is a deeply personal matter – and, for many, a daunting prospect. We understand this. Come consult with our advisors, and let our caring experts guide you through the process.
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Until next time –