There comes a point in life where we start thinking about the future and what we want from life. This could include owning a business, working for a large corporation, as well as settling down and starting a family. What we don’t always think about is end-of-life. After all, we’re all intellectually aware, life has no guarantees on the amount of time we have. It seems most of us don’t consider the reality of our mortality until near the end of it. Each of us must think about the future and include end-of-life plans. Talking with our family about wills and estate planning may not be a comfortable conversation, it is important.
Talking with family about estate planning starts with honest conversations about who will be appointed as executor and how our assets and our “stuff” will be divided among our family, friends, or charities. This is an opportunity to express our wishes to our loved ones and allows them an opportunity to know our plans.
*This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The use of the Paths Law Firm website does not constitute a client-lawyer relationship.
Family Conversations About Wills and Estate Planning
It is important for our families to know what our end-of-life planning consists of. This includes our wills, estate plans, and advance care planning. To start, set aside time for everyone involved to get together. This is best done well in advance of any crisis. This family meeting should not be a surprise. Everyone involved should know ahead of time what the conversation will be about. Even though some of us may have family members whose presence will add contention, transparency is always recommended. This will also go much better now than after we’re gone.
Start the conversation with respect. Everyone should know they are encouraged to talk freely about their concerns and share their thoughts and feelings. While the topics of conversation may be uncomfortable, the goal is that everyone hears and understands our wishes. We should be certain to listen intently to their suggestions. It may take time and regular conversations, but with open communication, the hope is everyone is on the same page.
Wills and Estate Planning Groundwork
It is important our families know the measures in place or those which we want in place as to our final plans. The various instruments this may include are the type of wills, asset protection trusts, family trusts, guardianship, and other safeguards available and desired by us. This allows everyone to have a full understanding of our wishes and they stay informed as to the disposition of our assets after we die. This also helps minimize surprises or challenges down the line regarding inheritances. If we haven’t already put our plan in place, start today. Having a will and estate plan in place is an act of love for our families which will protect us and them.
Looking to the Future
Our family conversations should focus on the plan for the estate, the safeguards being put in place, and the importance of understanding long-term goals and plans. We should always be honest and transparent to best avoid or reduce frustration. Each of us hopefully understands what our family needs to avoid miscommunication. Topics of conversation may include retirement plans; this may include downsizing the home or simplification of other asset holdings. If there is a family farm, lake house, or cabin, or even a family business, it is important for everyone to understand our intent and desires related to those important and valuable assets.
Because emotions will be involved and money is at stake, it is important to seek guidance from someone like Russell Fracassa, an experienced estate planning attorney serving clients in the Kansas City metro area, from beyond North Kansas City, throughout Independence, and past Raymore. Seeking guidance helps all of us clarify any technical components and help to prevent conflicts later as an unbiased party.
Leaving a Legacy
Leaving a family legacy is about more than bank accounts, investments, and property. It means leaving a valued treasure which those who follow us will greatly value upon inheritance. This legacy may include assets such as money, life insurance, and property. But it could also come in the form of donations, trust accounts for education or sentimental things such as photos or memorabilia we collect through our life.
Peace of Mind with Wills and Estate Planning
Much of the stress that is attached to advanced care and end of life is due to a lack of planning and communication. It is never anyone’s wish to have the family fight about inheritance or contest wills after they pass. Having your affairs in order, proper documents available to the right individuals, and advanced knowledge of your wishes will help to reduce stress levels and be less traumatic.
Estate Planning Checklist
- Have the conversation about wills and estate planning. The conversation may be difficult no matter when it takes place.
- Express clearly wishes to the family. This should include the reasons for the choices made for the division of assets. This may include money, stocks, bonds, property, or even a family business.
- Listen to family concerns, if any, and devise a plan meeting wishes.
- Define who should be in charge of the estate so everyone is aware.
- It is important that we have a power of attorney to handle general or financial affairs when we are incapacitated or simply unable to effectively do such ourselves.
- Outline any advanced directives for incapacity or end-of-life.
- Make a list of all physical assets and non-physical assets.
- Identify all debts to be resolved upon passing.
- Work with an attorney to put together the necessary legal documents, such as your wills and estate planning instruments.
- Update estate planning documentation periodically based on changes in life.
At Paths Elder Law, we work with seniors and their families to ensure they, their assets, and their plans are protected. Likewise, it is important our client’s end-of-life wishes are met. Planning provides our families the protection they need and the peace of mind each of us want. If you or a loved one is ready to start their wills and estate planning, or need to have an updated estate plan, contact Paths Elder Law. Our focus is on making sure your wishes are met.