Communication with your Family About Your Assets

Throughout your life, it’s likely that you will accumulate different assets which range in value.  Some, such as your residence, car or personal possessions, will be evident while others like investment accounts or retirement funds may be less visible.  While it may seem like you have plenty of time to plan for your estate, without key instruments in place, events may suddenly occur which can make it difficult for your loved ones to identify, protect, or even inherit your assets.  Further, even with estate planning, it’s important to let your family and other loved ones know what you want to happen to your property.  Otherwise, your will and other estate planning devices could later be called into question.

Decide What You Want

It may sound simple, but it is critical that you take the time to assess your assets and determine how you wish for them to be managed and distributed.  One individual may want their estate to pass to their spouse and adult children while another may want to disinherit a child or other relative.  There is also the matter of selecting someone to act in your stead if you become incapacitated.  The ideal way to parse out how you want your property to be assigned and protected on your behalf is by meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney.  Your counsel can help you consider different aspects of your decisions and make arrangements which work for your situation.  

Talk With Your Family and Loved Ones

While it may seem morbid, discussing your final wishes and potential incapacity with those closest to you is an integral part of estate planning.  When your beneficiaries and potential decision-makers are aware of what you want it decreases the likelihood that there will be disagreements later on.  For instance, if you are choosing to disinherit an adult child or sibling telling them or other beneficiaries your choice may keep the individual from contesting your will or trust.  Likewise, informing loved ones that you have named someone as your financial power of attorney or medical decision-maker, can help resolve ambiguity and prevent legal challenges to the designated person having the authority to protect your interest.

Have the Right Devices in Place

One of the best ways to protect your interest and ensure that your final wishes are honored is by having a thoughtful and detailed estate plan in place.  Will and trust, for instance, are excellent tools you can use to make sure your assets are bequeathed to your chosen beneficiaries.   Further, creating a Patient Advocate Designation (PAD) which allows you to name the person to carry out your medical wishes for you if you are unable to do so, will help make certain that you have the person of your choosing in this critical role.  Likewise, selecting a power of attorney for finances permits you to have another person in place to safeguard your financial well-being should it become necessary.  There are also other options such as a revocable and irrevocable trust which can allow individuals to set aside property for certain purposes as well as for their own benefit and that of their beneficiaries.

Having a conversation about your assets and plans can help make sure your loved ones understand and respect your decisions.  However, the ideal way to make sure your choices are honored is by consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you build the right estate plan for your circumstances.  Our office has experience assisting clients in planning for all aspects of their estates and can help. Contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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