A proper estate plan requires putting it all on the table

The Huffington Post recently published an article explaining to its readers the importance of a properly constructed estate plan. While there are some who believe that they should not leave anything to the next generation, it is entirely possible that even those people may die unexpectedly leaving assets that have to be distributed to rest of the family. That means that it is never too early to begin making preparation for which family members will get the things that you leave behind.

The first thing that must happen to put together a proper estate plan is to have a conversation with the entire family. Although the conversation will not be easy, and it may even be painful, it is completely necessary. The failure to have this conversation will cause more pain and difficulty than actually having the conversation. You need to be realistic about those in your family who you would or would not trust with your assets. “There are remarriages, step-children, adult kids who can’t handle money or are married to dolts. There are children with special needs, grandchildren with college worries, surviving spouses who remarry and nobody likes the new wife. Our lives are messy . . . but an honest conversation now can pre-empt problems later on.”

The next thing to do is to write the will. It is essential that everyone have a last will and testament. The will should not only explain who gets what, but also how they are to receive it. It may also be necessary to establish a trust to make sure that your specific directions are carried out. When preparing the will, you have to think of all possibilities and all scenarios. The article provides the following example of the kind of forward thinking you must utilize when preparing the will:

Many married couples want to set things up so that the surviving spouse gets everything and then when the surviving spouse dies, it all gets left to their children. But what if Dad remarries after Mom dies and then is outlived by his new wife? Should that new wife be allowed to live in the family house until her death — thus delaying when the adult children can realize it as an asset? What if Wife 2 devoted herself to caring for Dad, keeping him out of a nursing home and protecting the family’s other cash assets by doing so? Still ready to put her in the street?

You should be honest about who you think is the most responsible and dole out the assets accordingly. If you think one child is more responsible than another, maybe you give her access to her inheritance outright, while you set up a trust for the other, less responsible child. Also consider more assets that just the money and the house. Think about other things that may mean something to one or more members of the family. What about your antique pearl necklace that your grandmother gave you? Which of your children will receive that? Most people do not think to provide for the disposition of such property in their wills.

Finally, it is always important to contact an attorney. There are tax implications and other legal matters involved when planning your estate. If you have any questions about planning your estate, contact the Huntsville estate planning attorneys at Martinson & Beason, P.C.

Source: “Estate Planning: What You Don’t Say Can Hurt You,” by Ann Brenoff, published at HuffingtonPost.com.