Trust & Estate Planning

Creating an End-of-Life Plan to Help Avert Family Conflict

May 29, 2018

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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