March 15th, 2012
Our Comment by J. David Lewis – This article was published in 2011, just days after we completed summarizing client estate plans, with the information we maintain for them. I postponed sharing it until we are again in the season when we remind clients to ask themselves if there estate plans are still the way they want them. Everyone should think about things people around them will need if they are not able to take care of their own affairs.
By Saabira Chaudhuri
“Jean Parr is grateful that her mother obsessed about the subject. “I really didnt want to think about it,” says Ms. Parr, 54 years old, a manager at the American Chemical Society in Washington. But when her mom died in 2005, she knew exactly where to look for the will, the key to a safe-deposit box and documents indicating her mother had paid and arranged for her own funeral.
The financial consequences of failing to keep your documents in order can be significant. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, state treasurers currently hold $32.9 billion in unclaimed bank accounts and other assets.”
Read “The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die” via Designing Your Death Dossier – WSJ.com.
In 2011, most “Estate Planning Quarterly Reports” included our thoughts on communications which is an element in the WSJ.com article we encourage now. Many families have an ability to be more pragmatic than others about disposition of their “stuff.” We think it is important for whole families to have a well understood philosophy surrounding any asset that has the potential for becoming emotionally charged when it is part of an estate. Survivors often seem to honestly believe their interpretation of family history is more valid than other family member’s interpretations. Sometimes those contradictory beliefs are strong. We think families will benefit if the living owner can speak clearly about their wishes and consider reasonably accurate assessments for the effects of these assets on their family’s wellbeing. It is also important to listen carefully to potential heirs when they discuss their feelings about your family’s assets. We think open communication is more important, with regard to these matters, than “iron-clad” legal documents. Surprises and conflicting interpretations can cause family distress.
Contact J. David Lewis directly with Dlewis@resourceadv.com or share your thoughts on this topic below. He founded Resource Advisory Services in 1985. National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) was formed only a few years before. Lewis became a NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor in 1986. He is a passionate advocate for fiduciary, fee-only financial planning and has been associated with financial services since childhood in a banking family.
Entry Filed under: Estate Planning