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Give Thanks - And Think Of The Future
The holidays mean fun, feasts, festivities, and getting together with family and friends. They also pose the perfect opportunity to discuss important estate planning issues while everyone is together. There is no better time to talk about your wishes for the future than with loved ones around the table. This is especially true if family members live considerable distances from each other and only see each other a few times a year.
The discussion of wills, powers of attorney, health care surrogates, and other matters related to estate planning may seem like strange talk for a holiday get-together. But, there is no reason an estate planning discussion can't be managed in a relaxed and casual atmosphere. While it may seem awkward or bleak to talk about such matters during a joyous time of year, it can actually provide a great sense of relief to share with others your plans for the future. In addition, it can go a long way in preventing family disputes which may arise in the future. Often, initiating the conversation is the hardest part - once the subject is breached, you might be surprised to find how willing everyone is to participate in the conversation. If you are struggling with how to bring up the subject with your family, here are some questions to get the dialog going:
1. Do you have a Will? If so, where is it located and would you like to provide anyone with a copy?
2. Have you appointed an Executor? Should we discuss whom you would like to serve in that capacity? What if that person is unavailable or unwilling to fill the role?
3. Are there wishes regarding certain assets that are not specifically mentioned in the Will? Small items with emotional sentiment attached to them (for example, photo albums) may go unaccounted for in the Will, so it is wise to decide how these will be divided up in advance.
4. Where are things located? Besides the Will or other estate planning documents, it is important to know the location of such items as safety deposit boxes, keys for property or vehicles, checking accounts, etc.
5. Do you have a Living Will? How about a Health Care Power of Attorney?
6. Do any estate planning documents need to be updated in light of recent events (i.e., marriage, divorce, births or deaths in the family)?
Not only should your family know your wishes, but the details should also be discussed with an estate planning attorney who can formalize them in writing. Estate planning benefits greatly from forethought and the process runs more smoothly if you have discussed your wishes with those you love, considered your assets, made a list of goals, and established whom you trust to carry out your legacy. Take the opportunity this holiday season to discuss your and your family's future - the peace of mind it brings may be one of the greatest presents you could give to them.
This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law and does not constitute legal advice.