Pretty much everybody realizes the importance of working with the right attorney to put your estate legal program in order. But the following are some rather "not commonly talked about" things you should do to complete your estate legal plan. Here are five:
- Write a Letter. I was watching TV today and a son was talking about how, before his father committed suicide (which I don't recommend), the father wrote a personal letter to each of his children. The son was fighting back tears as he described how meaningful the letter was to him. Sit down and write a letter to each of your heirs describing how proud you are of their achievements. That letter may mean far more to them than any inheritance of money you leave them.
- Verify Account Titles. Take a good look at how your accounts are titled. Do you have individual accounts, joint accounts, trust accounts. Can someone access your account if you become incapacitated or die? Check this out, particularly if you regularly open new accounts.
- Verify Beneficiary Designations. I was working with a Baton Rouge family recently. The father died and his IRA listed their mother as the only beneficiary of his IRA. The problem was that the mother died three years earlier. This caused increased income tax responsibilities and probate headaches for the children.
- Inventory Your Assets and Debts. I was working with a family from Lake Charles, Louisiana recently. Mom had died a couple of weeks earlier. No one had a real good idea of what Mom owned when she died. It took the settlement of the estate about an extra six months because no one felt confident that all of the assets and debts had been listed in full. Make an inventory of all of your financial assets and debts and bills and update it every year.
- Communicate Wishes Regarding Personal Items. I don't like to get involved in the distribution of personal items among a family after a loved one dies. While it is easy to divide an account with $100,000, it is darn near impossible to divide up Mom's engagement ring and Dad's favorite gun and tool. Even it is informal, make some communication to your survivors about how you expect them to handle your personal items. Even if your instructions are not formally in your estate legal documents, your family is likely to honor your wishes so long as you communicate clearly what you want.
Taking care of these five items can virtually guaranteed that your estate settlement will run much smoother than if you did not address these items. If you live in Louisiana and would like to have a conversation about how we can help you establish the ideal estate planning legal program for your family, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and put in your Subject Line: I'd Love To Get My Estate Legal Affairs In Order. Then, we'll likely have a conversation about your estate planning goals to start off.