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Creating an End-of-Life Plan to Help Avert Family Conflict
By Washington Trust / May 29, 2018
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As seen on The Rhode Show

We’ve all heard horror stories of families squabbling over a parent’s estate or end-of-life care. While it’s easy to tell yourself that these kinds of disagreements would never happen in your family, sadly, it happens all too regularly and in even the closest families. A major cause for these divides stems from a few oversights that are easily avoided through open communication and preemptive planning to help ensure that you and your loved ones are on the same page.  

Medical Decisions and Final Arrangements

Family disagreements don’t simply revolve around money. Although planning for death can be emotionally trying, your family may not be aware of your true intentions without written directives. Documents that record your wishes regarding heroic measures and life support treatment and that designate your agent to make final health care, financial and funeral decisions should to be drafted by your lawyer to specify who will make end-of-life decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself, and what you wish to happen with your remains after you pass. 

Hold a Family Meeting to Discuss the Plan 

Open communication about your wishes will help to avoid confusion, hurt feelings, surprise and potential litigation later. Make known your intentions when you are writing your will. Make everyone aware of your reasons for choosing your executor and why and how you plan on dividing your estate.  

The Importance of a Will 

Writing a will, even if you feel you don’t have enough assets to make a will necessary, can be the critical piece in making your intentions clear and avoid confusion and disagreement between your loved ones after you pass. Without a will, the probate process, or settling of the estate under court supervision, can often become contentious and more time consuming. 

Name an Executor 

When choosing an executor to handle your estate after you pass, try to make your choice a practical one. If choosing one child over another, factor in points such as proximity. A child living near you will be better equipped and less burdened to handle your estate than one living out of state. Or, if you have a child with a background in accounting or law, they might be a better choice simply because of their experience and knowledge in such matters. 

Other Transfer Options 

While it is still advisable to have a will, there are several other transfer options, including trusts and beneficiary designations for assets such as an IRA or life insurance which are payable on death. Be sure to plan ahead in selecting your beneficiaries for these options and speak with a financial advisor to see which options might work best for your specific financial situation.

Personal items 

Write a letter of instruction to identify which personal items you wish to go to whom. While this is not a legally binding document, it does allow you to explain your intentions, and will limit any disagreements that could arise without such instruction. Talking with your loved ones about these decisions as you write the letter will help identify who has sentimental attachments to which items.

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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and may not reflect those of Washington Trust Wealth Management. The information in this report has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. Any opinions expressed herein are subject to change at any time without notice. Any person relying upon this information shall be solely responsible for the consequences of such reliance. Performance is historical and does not guarantee future results.

Such information does not constitute legal or professional advice as all situations are unique and are based on individual facts and circumstances.

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