What should I discuss with my family?
Discussing your eventual death is not a pleasant conversation to have, but it is a necessary one. It is important to let your family know what your wishes are. Depending on what your documents say, your family members may have some big decisions to make regarding your end of life care, burial, and dispositions of assets. If you have never discussed any of this with them or told them where to look for your documents, they could be left in the dark during an already trying time.
I have many clients who come in to a meeting feeling like the weight of the world is on their shoulders, who visibly exhale with relief by the time we execute their documents. Preparing and executing the proper document is crucial but take it a step farther. Let someone know about your final decisions. You took the first difficult step by having the documents drafted. Now make sure someone knows where to find them and what to do with them. This will provide peace of mind to you now and to your loved ones in the future.
What is the biggest mistake someone can make in their estate planning?
The biggest mistake I’ve seen usually occurs when someone allows rumor, conjecture, the internet, or regularly believed myths to dictate their estate plan. Sadly, I’ve had to deal with estates where someone thought they were doing what was necessary to have their wishes followed, but they were not. Information is so accessible today. But so is misinformation. It can be hard to figure out what is fact and what is fiction.
Please do not rely on something you heard from your cousin’s wife or an online article that seems to be addressing a situation similar to your own. It is important to speak with a qualified attorney about your unique circumstances to ensure your wishes are being met. I know you are probably thinking, “Of course she wants me to see an attorney, she is one!” And that is very true. But more than that, I want to ensure your wishes are followed. I don’t want to have to sit across from your loved ones and tell them what Mom or Dad wanted to happen, isn’t going to happen because they didn’t set things up properly. Those meetings are gut wrenching and can be avoided with proper planning
Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning.