Though it is something that is a certainty for everyone, mortality is a subject that many individuals do not want to think about or discuss. As a result, far too many people go through life without any estate planning documents at all.
In addition to this, when a plan is finally being devised, the whole matter can take on a shroud of secrecy if it is not discussed openly among family members.
The Value of Inclusion
Each estate planning case is different, and this is why you should explore all of your options with a licensed attorney so that you can make informed choices. Some situations are more complicated than others, and the exact dynamic can vary widely.
Sometimes, discretion and confidentiality are necessary, but when different circumstances exist, it is better to be open with your family about your estate planning decisions. Of course, it can be difficult to deliver a message that you know some people will not want to hear.
But if your family is functional, and you explain your decisions thoroughly, the people you will be leaving behind should be able to understand your thought processes. In some cases, they may be able to help you make choices by providing their input, and some adult children have professional accounting, estate, and financial planning knowledge.
If you never communicate with your loved ones, even though the lines are open, there can be some serious misunderstandings after you are gone that cause ongoing problems within the family. In addition to “breaking the news” so to speak, there are also practical concerns.
To provide an example, if you have a living trust, you can act as the trustee while you are living, and you have to name someone to succeed you after you are gone. Let’s say that you have three adult children, and they get along just fine. They are all good with money so the trustee could come from this pool.
It is quite possible to name multiple trustees, and this can be appealing if you are concerned about perceived favoritism. However, being the trustee of a living trust can be a complex and time-consuming role. Depending on the way the trust is constructed, there can be ongoing decision-making responsibilities.
Your children may well live busy lives so you learn their thoughts on acting as a trustee. You may have just one child who is willing to assume the role, or you may find that none of them are comfortable serving as the trustee for one reason or another.
Under the latter circumstance, you would know that you should go in another direction. Then you could use a corporate trustee like the trust department of a bank or a trust company. There are a number of advantages if you go this route, but there are expenses that can be considerable.
Who will make decisions later in life is another factor that should be discussed. If you have a living trust, you can empower a successor trustee to act as the trustee if you become disabled. This is one incapacity planning step you can take, but there are others.
If you are not using a living trust, you can execute a durable power of attorney for property to empower someone to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Another power of attorney would name a health care decision maker.
A durable power of attorney for health care is an advance directive. There is another one called a living will that should definitely be part of your incapacity plan. With this document, you state your own wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining measures like feeding tubes, artificial respiration, etc.
When everyone in the family knows exactly how you want doctors to proceed if you are ever in this position, disagreements are much less likely. Over the years, there have been some high profile disputes over this issue, including the Terri Schiavo case.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
Now is the time for action if you do not have an estate plan in place, or if your existing plan has not been reviewed in years. You can call us at 606-324-5516 in Ashland, Kentucky, or 859-372-6655 in Florence, Kentucky, to schedule a consultation, and our North Carolina number is 704-944-3245 (Charlotte, NC and Huntersville NC). If you would rather get in touch through the Internet, simply send us a message through our contact page.