Obtaining understanding and clarity from the deceased can be a challenging task. Through our team’s combined years of experience in various estate planning situations, we have observed that “peaceful and easy” outcomes typically share two key factors: effective communication and thorough preparation. On the other hand, situations marked by conflict and unnecessary expenses often arise from confusion and frustration surrounding the wishes of the deceased.
Regardless of the size of their estate, it is important to note that this article is relevant to all families. Money rarely serves as the root cause of division in a family estate. While finances and assets are central to the discussion, the lack of clear communication regarding the deceased's intentions often triggers emotional responses.
Some of the most challenging meetings I have encountered involve families who have lost a loved one. In some cases, the deceased had their affairs in order, while in others, they had not made the necessary preparations. The impact on surviving loved ones can be significant. Both families are grieving their loss, but only one must also navigate difficult financial decisions amidst an already overwhelming situation. Preparedness makes a substantial difference.
Advisors who assist families with their estate plans should commit to help families complete their Financial Journey, which necessitates planning for the future of their assets after they are gone. Engaging in routine tasks such as annual verification of beneficiary designations on accounts, as well as comprehensive reviews of trust details is key.
When reviewing estate documents, ensure that your family is still in agreement with the plan outlined in the original document or most recent amendment. Life circumstances change, and these documents should be reviewed every 3-5 years at a minimum to account for important events such as marriages, divorces, births, and deaths.
When engaging in estate planning, several crucial questions need to be considered and discussed. Do you have sufficient life insurance coverage to provide for your family's well-being? Can you ensure that your heirs will manage their inherited assets in accordance with your wishes? Will the transfer of your assets benefit or harm your heirs? Do you have heirs with special needs who require protected inheritances?
Understanding the estate plan is crucial for the Grantor of the trust, and equally vital is the familiarity of the plan by the Successor Trustee. The Successor Trustee holds the responsibility of overseeing the execution of the trust's wishes, rules, and provisions. Although children are often named as Successor Trustees for their parents' trusts, they may not always be aware of the responsibilities they are assuming. Simply being informed in passing that they are named as a trustee is insufficient preparation for the role.
Take the time to thoroughly review the provisions of your trust with your chosen Successor Trustee. Keep your important documents well-organized and easily accessible to your family. By doing everything within your power to ensure your family is prepared, you can avoid last-minute scrambling and regrets.
Initiate open discussions with your family about these matters. Your loved ones will appreciate your proactive approach more than you can imagine.
Financial Enhancement Group is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through World Equity Group, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services can be provided by Financial Enhancement Group (FEG) or World Equity Group. FEG and World Equity Group are separately owned and operated.