As disconcerting at it may be, considering the eventuality of one's own death and the impact it will have on his or her family is something we all must address and prepare for. As unhappy as it might make one feel, there is something worse than imagining your family without you. The fighting after our passing and failing to follow your desires as to your estate may be even more upsetting. However, unlike dying, something none of us can avoid, having your wishes followed is something each of us can take steps to insure. Certainly it is worthwhile to avoid the dissipation of one's estate and the acrimony a court fight between family members can, and is likely, to produce.
As rare as such a scenario may be (most families are never closer than after a loved one passes), they do, unfortunately, occur. To avoid such a nightmare, one should plan his/her estate carefully. Here are some key things to consider in order to avoid leaving turmoil as one of your bequests.
Choose Help Carefully
When it comes to estate planning, you have two incredibly important choices to make: Your attorney and estate planning advisor, and the Executor of your estate.
Your advisors should not only be a certified professional, they should also be people with whom you can consult independently. Keeping your family shielded from your planning sessions will make it easier for you to be honest and to lay your plans without interference.
Your choice of Executor should have more to do with capabilities than simple age - an eldest child may be the expected choice, but ask yourself if they're emotionally and mentally prepared to deal with the work and the stress of being Executor. In addition, since the job of executor often involves performing tasks that need to be done in the area where you reside at the time of your passing, choosing someone you trust, but for whom that job will not be complicated by the need to, and expense of, having to travel long significant distances, should also be taken into consideration.
Think Through Your Choices
Too many people fail to fully consider and/or appreciate the emotional impact of their decisions. Dividing possessions and wealth up mathematically may very well be completely fair. However, certain family members often expect to be left certain objects of sentimental value, and getting a randomly divided slice of the pie will be upsetting and may be the basis of harboring resentment toward other family members. They'll wonder why you specifically chose to not give them something they've expressed love for.
The key is to make your decisions about prized objects known. Ask your beneficiaries what they might want from the house or your collections, and let them know you'll take those wishes explicitly. Your goal should be to avoid surprises that will cause trouble.
Keep Things Up to Date
If you're smart and you began planning your estate early, be sure to update your documents regularly as your financial and other situations change. An annual review is often a very good idea. An out-of-date will or other documents are unlikely to effectively carry out your wishes and/or keeping order in the family after you're gone.
As much as we wish to avoid the addressing the subject, estate planning ultimately is actually a good thing that will spare everyone pain - but only if you approach it with your eyes open.
If you're involved in a dispute, consult with Bert Binder of Affordable Dispute Resolution. Mr. Binder has handled different types of cases as a litigator and mediator and has helped people reach fair & affordable resolutions over matters involving business, employment, labor, real estate and probate disputes. Visit http://www.affordabledisputeresolution.com or call 201-790-3553.