Everyone has seen the movie or television show when the family gathers for the reading of the will. It is usually a dramatic event with an unexpected twist that makes for a good movie plot. Is there actually any requirement to have the family meet for a “reading of the will?” If not, how do people find out what is in the will?
I know most people think of something else when I refer to the “talk.” However, in my world, the “talk” means a discussion with the children about your estate plan and your expectations of them.
When I meet with parents finishing their estate plan, they often ask me if they should share the details of their plan with their children.
A few days ago I read an article warning about what is called the “Grandparents Scam.” It is a scam I have been addressing for some time in my presentations. This article suggested that summertime brings an uptick in this scam.
According to the FBI, it works like this:
You’re a grandparent, and you get a phone call or an e-mail from someone who identifies himself as your grandson. “I’ve been arrested in another country,” he says, “and need money wired quickly to pay my bail. And, oh by the way, don’t tell my mom or dad because they’ll only get upset!”
If a couple in a second marriage live in a home owned only by one spouse, important questions arise when the spouse owning the home passes away. Where will the surviving spouse live? If he/she continues to live there, will the children of the spouse owning the home still be able to ultimately receive the home? The deceased spouse may have wanted to ensure the surviving spouse has a place to live, but have the home ultimately end up with his/her children.
It is your second marriage and you live with your spouse in the home she brought to the marriage. When she passes away, what right do you have to continue living there? Some people assume that, because they were married, they will be able to continue living in that home even after their spouse passes. This is not at all necessarily true.
I met recently with a man who asked me if it was too late. I could not give him the assurance he wanted. His mother was a stroke survivor; and recently had a serious fall. These are two of the most common reasons seniors need long term care, and both can occur in an instant. Seniors make up almost two thirds of those hospitalized for a stroke. Similarly, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for seniors.
They call it a “virtual dementia” tour. For a ten to fifteen-minute period, I was placed in an environment designed to simulate the effects of dementia. People living with dementia often appear docile, giving the impression that dementia is somehow a serene experience. My experience was anything but serene.
Even though my mind re-acclimated within a few minutes, my body was still trying to make sense of the experience. I felt out of breath, even though I had done nothing strenuous. I left with a greater sensitivity for those who live with dementia, and for their caregivers.
Last column I wrote about the heartbreak I see in some seniors who feel as if they are nothing more than a source of money or assets to those who will be left when they pass. No estate plan can exceed the blessing of the lives and lessons we learn from those who came before us. Their values surely exceed their valuables.
I have not been hesitant to emphasize the need to do your estate planning. Without planning, many families deal with such difficult situations that could have been avoided.
Proper planning means more than simply listing what happens to your “stuff” when you die. Estate planning should address your wishes should you or your spouse become incapacitated and unable to care for yourselves. Also, if you have concerns that your assets may be inappropriately used after your passing, your estate plan should also provide solutions to this concern. This is actually less complicated (and less expensive) than many people think.
For the last several columns I have addressed critical steps for parents who desire to pass on the farm, ranch or other business to the next generation. Last column, I gave the example in which one child wants to own/operate the business but the others are not interested. How do you divide the estate? One way is to let all the children have a share of the profits but only one child makes the business decisions.