I recently read that August is National Make A Will Month. I have not received any greeting cards yet, so I figured I would write a blog post to mark the occasion.
Estate planning attorney Gerald M. Condon stated, "You really don't know your children - until they divide their inheritance." Mr. Condon passed away several years ago, but I imagine he was not one to leave anything to chance when he did.
I have written fairly exhaustively on the importance of planning for one's inevitable demise on this blog along with how to get started doing so. However, Mr. Condon brings up an interesting question: How can I assure the transition of assets is seamless when I am gone?
The very simple answer: Plan and Communicate.
Some of the biggest arguments I have witnessed in administration of a decedent's estate deal with tangible personal property that has only sentimental value. The cost of those arguments, in both time and expense, far exceeds any financial value of the item.
Arguments among heirs, especially with respect to items of nominal financial value, could easily have been avoided if the deceased had better communicated their intent. A meeting with a parent and their children while the parent is still alive is a great way to hash out who wants what. At the same time, it is a great opportunity for a parent to set expectations: "You have drained money from me your entire lives, I'm giving everything I own to the animal shelter when I die. I have always liked dogs better than people anyway." Perhaps the direction will be more loving than the example, but setting an expectation is always key.
Also, make sure you have competent people set to take responsibility for Trust/Estate administration when you are gone. Evaluate their capacity to effectively handle assets and understand a somewhat complex process. Jimmy, who is 45, stays out all night, and lives in Mom's basement, may be your oldest and best friend, but he may not be who you want handling your affairs when you are gone.
Finally, point your appointed representatives in the right direction for assistance when the time comes. They very well may need the assistance of an attorney, CPA, land appraiser, auctioneer, banker, etc.
Plan and Communicate. Seems like a good slogan for life.