It goes without saying that death is a heartbreaking tragedy; no matter how much time we have with someone, it never seems like enough. This week, we wanted to have a candid and honest discussion with readers about just that topic. The title of this piece comes from a term that an attorney-friend of my father’s, in which he said, “We are all prospective decedents.” What he was pointing out was that we will all pass away at some point, and this week we wanted to take some time to explain how you can make life simple for your heirs, or extremely complicated.
The unfortunate thing about death is that no one ever plans for it; there’s no window on your schedule blocked off for when your time is up. That is why taking a proactive stance and taking care of things such as your will or your finances can be very helpful to your heirs. We have seen families torn apart for literally decades, just because one’s intentions were not made clear.
Our advice to those who are willing to consider the inevitable is to be as specific as you possibly can. While your favorite pocket watch may not have a substantial retail value, the sentimental value can be priceless to more than one of your heirs. If one does not make their wishes known in their will, it is sure to cause anger and frustration within the family.
We also recommend talking to all of the following; a CPA, an attorney and an investment advisor. All of these individuals can give you significant insight on how to structure your assets so that your heirs will benefit the most from them. The CPA can tell you the financial implications that your heirs will face due to your passing, the attorney can tell you how to structure your assets to minimize any tax issues and the investment advisor can help structure your accounts in the way that best benefits the account holder and his/her heirs in the event of their passing.
The best thing that a person can do is sit down, look at what they have, and take it all one piece at a time. A Transfer on Death (T.O.D.) on your investment account can allow your beneficiary to receive assets without going to probate. Putting your home in a trust can also allow you to bypass probate. A detailed and all encompassing will can provide guidance to your heirs for what your wishes were for your personal possessions. These are all things that no one enjoys contemplating, but they are necessary to think about, for the sake of your future generations.
To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” He was absolutely right, those two things are almost a given in life. If we take the time to consider our options, we can actually greatly benefit our heirs and their future generations, even after we have passed.