Many people struggle with all of the decisions that they have to make when putting together their estate plan: Who should get what? When should they get it? Who shouldn’t get anything? Who should be the executor? Who should be the trustee?
All of these decisions can be overwhelming, even for someone who has what is considered a “normal” family, but they don’t have to be. In the wise words of Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, it’s your decision.
If you’re stressed out about how to plan your estate, then don’t despair. Here are three tips for making your estate plan your way:
Tip #1 – Don’t be afraid to disinherit someone. It’s your money, so you can choose to leave it, or not leave it, to whomever you want. But beware – being bullied into making your estate plan a certain way by a certain individual and not the way you really want it (for instance, leaving everything to one child to the exclusion of others at the insistence of that one child) will result in family discord. If you really want to disinherit someone, then that’s your prerogative, but if someone bullies you into disinheriting someone else, then in extreme cases this could amount to “undue influence” and lead to an ugly will or trust contest. If you truly want to disinherit someone, then work closely with your estate planning attorney to insure that not only will your final wishes be carried out, but your plan will be bullet proof from challenges.
Tip #2 – Choose your executor and trustee wisely. Here are the traits you should look for in your executor and trustee: loyal, fair, practical, trustworthy, organized and tough. If you choose a person who has most of these traits, then your final wishes will be fulfilled, but if you choose a person who has only one or two of these traits, then your final wishes will take a back seat to their own agenda. Better yet, choose a corporate trustee, such as a bank or trust company, to put these important jobs in the hands of professionals. Otherwise it may be way too easy for Uncle Bob to skim some off of the top or for your loved ones to convince Uncle Bob to disregard your wishes.
Tip #3 – Listen to your estate planning attorney. While a good estate planning attorney will listen intently so that he or she can learn about your greatest concerns and challenges when it comes to planning your estate, you should also listen to your estate planning attorney because he or she can offer some good advice and solutions to ease those concerns and overcome the challenges. And while sometimes what your estate planning attorney says may not be what you want to hear, your attorney’s advice, which comes from years of experience in similar situations, may very well head off a family feud or a will or trust contest.