End-of-life financial planning is not the easiest conversation to have. It can be even more complicated when multiple voices of parents, siblings, grandkids and other loved ones are involved. Children of aging parents often find it difficult or even impossible to have these conversations with parents — especially when they are in good health.
But these conversations are so important. Naturally this topic is on my mind as my mother just recently passed. When I think about her end-of-life planning, I think we had it pretty lucky. It was always relatively easy to have these conversations, even when my two brothers were alive. In that way, we were fortunate and able to be proactive.
It’s a delicate topic, but matters can become unbearably complicated and tense if you wait till after a loved one has passed. Their estate can get tied up in probate and in the courts, and just drag on forever.
I’ve seen family disputes and stress over estate planning. Someone feels they are not getting what they are owed, and then there is jealousy and conflict. Of course, not all conflict can be avoided, depending on your family structure, but I urge you, wherever you can to be proactive — start planning now.
Here are a few tips:
Why You Should Start End-of-Life Financial and Estate Planning Now
1. Work with an attorney.
They don’t necessarily have to be an estate planner, but they should be a professional that you trust and feel comfortable working with. Personally, I don’t even recommend working with a financial planner.
2. Set up a T.O.D. (Transfer on Death)
At the time of death, my mother’s entire estate (including checking and savings accounts, investments, etc.) was transferred to her trust, where I was the executor. There was no probate, nothing tied up — and so far, it has been incredibly seamless and smooth.
3. Designate personal property items in the will
Help your loved one with big and small items. They probably have an idea of who should receive which items, and setting those wishes in stone can help avoid conflict or confusion after their passing. My mom was such an excellent planner with her belongings. She even put little labels on her possessions so there was no confusion. In that regard, I didn’t really have to do much. She also had a list of personal instructions for her attorney in her will: donations to her church and other organizations that were important to her.
4. Have the conversation!
It can be difficult to talk with parents or loved ones about their passing but it is a conversation that MUST be had. Be proactive, compassionate and patient. Work together with a professional to ensure matters are properly executed. Talk with your siblings, loved ones or other parent so everyone who wants to be included is part of the conversation. Taking action on the front end will certainly avoid potential conflict in the future.
Bottom line: we’re all going to die, so we might as well plan for it. If nothing else, plan so that you can preserve your legacy and avoid conflict where possible. Don’t wait till the moment a family member has gotten ill or has passed away.
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