You’d be hard pressed to find any family that’d rather sit around the table discussing estate plans than going out to eat, enjoy the day outside or do just about any other activity as a family. No one likes to think about our inevitable mortality, but we all know that it is just that - inevitable. Estate planning can be an immense blessing to any family at a time of great loss. Below we’re discussing five of the most common emotional blocks family members face when trying to establish a successful estate plan. One of our areas of focus is helping clients develop a sound estate plan. This often involves working with an estate planning attorney. If you already have one that you work with, that's wonderful. We have a wide network of attorneys that we have worked with for years and can make the introduction if need be.
As you reach through this article, think about your own situation. If you would like to discuss your estate planning strategy, give us a call and we'd be happy to help.
Roadblock #1: Discussing Death
Talking about one’s own mortality isn’t a particularly fun thing to do, especially in the company of a partner, spouse, children or grandchildren. But the reality is, not discussing it doesn’t keep it from happening. Instead of trying to sit down and talking about your future death with your family, try to use gentler terms like “when I’m gone” or “once you’re on your own.” Finding other, softer ways to frame it can help you and your loved ones move past the morbidity and on to thinking about the next steps and how to move forward efficiently.
Roadblock #2: Assessing Assets
In order to craft a successful estate plan, you need to account for every asset. And if you’re well-established and have lived a long life, you’ve likely accumulated quite an estate. But it can be overwhelming to think about assessing each and every account, property, car, painting, piece of jewelry and more. So overwhelming, in fact, that you find yourself putting it off altogether.
If you’re able, work together with your spouse or a loved one to start two lists - financial and physical. As you think of things you own, start jotting them down into their appropriate category. Once you have a fair amount listed out, you can begin working on the next set of details - breaking down the categories into smaller, more specific subsections, listing out the price or value and thinking about who you’d like to have what. Move through this process one small step at a time to help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed while still making progress toward your estate plan.
Also give some consideration to your investments. There are some kinds of investments that offer more favorable tax treatment to your beneficiaries than others. This may impact your retirement income planning or beneficiary designations. Speaking of beneficiaries, conduct a full review of your accounts to ensure that your beneficiaries are all up to date. For assets that don't allow for beneficiaries, discuss how these assets will pass when you die and see if there are ways to efficiently transfer them to your heirs.
Roadblock #3: Working With a Lawyer
This is one roadblock you may not have even realized you had - working together with a lawyer. If you’ve worked with a trusted attorney in the past, this may not be an issue for you. But for those who are in need of working with a lawyer for the first time, the search can be intimidating, nerve-wracking and confusing. But estate plans can be complex, and you need to make sure you’re drafting one up that offers tax-benefits for your loved ones and protection over the things you love.
If you’re apprehensive about hiring an attorney, asking friends and family or other trusted professionals for referrals may be a reassuring step in the right direction. And if you find one who isn’t listening, speaking over your head or you just have a bad feeling about them, don’t be scared to pick up your things and go. Developing an estate plan that addresses your needs and concerns is far too important to settle with the wrong professional.
Roadblock #4: Deciding Who Gets What
Uncomfortable truths can start to surface when you begin thinking about who should be left with what. Even happy parents and kids with no family issues need to be realistic about the future - what’s the likelihood the widow will remarry, what happens if a child dies unexpectedly, what if there’s a divorce in the family, etc. And things can get even harder to discuss for families who may be struggling. Do you leave the child whose battling addiction a large sum of money, or do you give the majority of your wealth to your more stable child? If things have gotten rocky between you and a loved one, do you disinherit them altogether? There’s no shortage of emotional decisions to be made around who should get what, but you can’t let that stop you from pushing forward in determining who will receive what in the event of your passing - or else you may lose control of who receives what altogether.
Roadblock #5: Paying For an Estate Plan
Establishing a successful estate plan doesn’t come cheap. But if that’s keeping you from pushing forward in creating one, it may help to think of it as establishing a legacy for your family and leaving a gift to your beneficiaries. Taking the time to work with a professional now can help save your family members from costly tax obligations or other fees associated with dividing up your property.
Discussing an estate plan is no walk in the park, but it may be easier to address when you think about what it truly is - the gift of passing on a legacy in a tax-efficient manner to your loved ones. Take your time working through the emotional roadblocks discussed above, and keep moving forward in developing a successful estate plan now to protect your family in the future.
Next Steps: Make your estate planning a priority!
Don't procrastinate any longer. Make it a priority to understand your estate planning options and develop a strategy of how your hard-earned assets will be distributed and how your loved ones well be taken care of when you pass away. This is a critical part of what we do with our clients. As mentioned above, estate planning often involves working with a team of professionals such as CPA's and attorneys. We can help you assemble your team and get your estate planning on track!
We would welcome the opportunity to be a valuable resource in your planning. Call our office today to schedule a consultation.
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This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.