It can be unpleasant to think about dying. Therefore, many people procrastinate about arranging their financial and other matters, until it is too late. When someone leaves his affairs in a mess, the problems do not go away. The deceased person merely dumped the mess on his loved ones, who have no choice but to try to sort out the tangle.
Families can get ripped apart permanently because of problems with a close relative’s estate. Many problems are avoidable, by taking a few easy steps. Here are some suggestions on how to get your ducks in a row for the sake of your surviving loved ones.
Get Error-Free Estate Planning Documents and Keep Them Up to Date
Unfortunately, people with the best of intentions blunder through the process of trying to get their assets organized. A common situation is when someone intends to leave an asset to a group of people but only puts the name of one person on the document.
For example, a widow with no children wanted to leave her home to her five nieces and nephews, who were siblings. At the suggestion of her financial advisor, the aunt signed a document that created a life estate in the property and gave the house to one niece upon the aunt’s death. The aunt told the niece to sell the house and split the proceeds equally with the siblings at the aunt’s death. When the aunt died, the niece kept 100 percent of the value of the property for herself. The aunt should have put the names of all the siblings on the document.
You should read your will every few years to see if you need to update it. Let’s say you invested heavily in a company that made lots of money for a while. Your shares were worth a fortune. If you leave those shares to a loved one as the main part of her inheritance, you might need to adjust to asset distribution, if the company goes bust and the stocks become worthless.
Get Rid of the Clutter
One thing that causes more “survivor anger” than anything else, is when a parent refuses to get rid of junk or clean the house properly, leaving a huge mess behind. Someone has to go through all that stuff. When people hoard things, their children have to spend weeks or months sorting through everything, deciding what to donate, keep and throw away. They often stumble across embarrassing things they wish they had never seen. You can prevent these problems.
Talk to Your Loved Ones
Pre-paid funeral plans make lots of money, by not having to deliver the paid-for goods when families do not know Grandma bought a burial plot and a pre-paid funeral service. Survivors have to make decisions and arrangements within a few days of a loved one’s death. There is no time to go through the deceased person’s papers and find information about pre-paid plans or other essential information.
Many people like to make all the plans for the funeral service, like selecting the songs, minister and pallbearers. If your loved ones do not find your instructions until after the fact, all of your planning was a waste of your time.
Talk to your loved ones. Let them know who your estate planning lawyer is. Tell them about any pre-paid cemetery plots or funeral plans. Make sure they know what your wishes are for the funeral or where you keep the important papers, like your will or trust and your last wishes.
AARP. “7 Ways to Avoid Making Your Kids Angry After You Die.” (accessed June 12, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2019/make-kids-angry-from-grave.html