Fighting, resentment, jealousy, greed, entitlement, "He said — She said."
What causes these, or at the very least, inflames them? A lack of planning. It's alive and well for those who refuse to plan for their demise, or simply may not know how to plan. Since the beginning of time there has been a battle between the good and the bad and it will continue as long as humans are alive, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There are solutions for those who desire to leave a legacy of love instead of turbulence.
All you need is the will to do it, and to find the right resources to help you put together a plan for your heirs. What would motivate someone to not have a plan for their assets at the end of their life? Probably avoidance, procrastination and a slice of denial — no one wants to talk about the elephant in the room, but if you don't, the chubby pachyderm has a way of taking over. On the flip side, why would someone be motivated to plan ahead and make decisions for their heirs, on their behalf? I call it love, leaving a legacy one can be proud of, and wanting to exercise some control over their assets/heirlooms once they pass away to minimize guesswork and minimize feuding that might arise.
For the next several years, the United States is going to be inundated with the largest demographic of older people joining the ranks of "seniors" that this country has ever experienced.
This new trend signals dynamic changes for estate planning and estate dispositions. In the last five years, a paradigm shift has occurred in the personal property business. The multitude of inquiries are now from Boomers asking for help with their parents' personal property appraisals or estate clean outs. They are just beginning to comprehend that they also are facing the eventuality of their own need to scale back. Before 2006, the majority of inquiries for help in appraising items, helping downsize, and appropriately disposing of personal property, were almost always from Boomers' parents, who had become frail mentally or physically and needed to be in a more protective living environment.
One reason for the dramatic changes in estate planning and property disposition is based on the statistic that Baby Boomers have more siblings than children! The support system underneath them will not be as broad as what they provided for their parents' generation or for themselves. They are expected to outlive their own parents by at least ten years. One can only surmise what will happen to older adults in this future, if their estates are not large enough to sustain them in their golden years. Soon, Boomers will be making life-changing decisions more proactively for themselves than their parents did.
By definition, an estate is "the nature and extent of an owner's rights with respect to land or other property." However, people see their estate as land, building structures and portfolio assets in cash and investments, but often overlook the potential worth of their personal property that surrounds them. In fact, recently completed personal property appraisals show that the value of personal items and collections housed within the home were appreciably more than the sale of the house and its land.
When it comes to making arrangements for estate distribution upon one's death, too many older adults are seized with a rather dramatic disease, diagnosed as procrastination with a touch of denial. Of course we will all die — it's a certainty, but many people do nothing about it while they are alive. They think in terms of "if" I die, not "when" I die. Denial makes them procrastinate on very important personal decisions they should make.
Procrastination and denial have a remedy called "AWARE."
"A" stands for Anguish
When a loved one dies and leaves no instructions on what to do with his or her estate, the next of kin becomes angry and resentful at having to mentally and physically handle another person's lifetime of accumulation. The frustration, anger, resentment, and guilt are in their voices when they call me to help them dispose of the household possessions. Alleviate this emotional strain by spending a small amount of time now, when you are mentally and physically able to arrange your affairs yourself.
"W" stands for Will
Don't leave life without a will. Your Last Will and Testament/Trust is the wisest document you can possess. Have an attorney help you, since template forms may not hold up in the statutory process for distributing assets. Not just for those of wealth, a will is important for every well-prepared individual. A will is needed to make sure you have designated the rightful beneficiary when your estate is distributed after your death.
There are other documents in estate planning you should inquire about from an attorney, such as a Durable Power of Attorney, a Healthcare Power of Attorney, and a Declaration of Desire for a Natural Death, better known as a "Living Will." The investment in time and money here is minimal, compared to the anguish you will cause a loving family member or friend, without one.
Navigate issues of inheritance and preserve precious memories
Hey, isn't that Grandpa’s fishing pole?" Tim shouted as his cousin started the old family motorboat.
"Sure is!" Brad said proudly. "My dad got it for me when he cleaned out Grandpa and Gramma's place. Sweet, huh?"
Sweet for Bradley, but not so sweet for Tim, who clearly remembered his grandfather telling him, "That pole is going to be yours someday, Timmy."
How did this happen, Tim thought. How could a grandfather promise his prized possession to one grandson and then give it to another?
As an estate expert specializing in personal property, I spend a lot of time helping people decide what to do with their late parents’ lifetime accumulation of stuff. In the best cases — unfortunately, fewer than 20 percent — everything goes like clockwork: Adult siblings act like adults, and even if they all wanted Mom’s sterling-silver bowl, they refuse to let it come between them. In the rest of the cases, however, I'm more like a referee in a football game that ends in a bench-clearing brawl. Not only do siblings fight over the bowl, they sometimes throw it at each other. A lot of the fighting could have been avoided if things had been put in writing ahead of time.
As children fight over what their parents did or did not mean to leave to them, grandchildren are typically an afterthought. But the bonds between grandchildren and grandparents can be powerful and deserving of recognition. Grandpa really did promise the fishing pole to Tim; he simply forgot to make a plan for it.
If you’re like most people, you probably think of a Will in terms of the document that specifies where your money and your material goods will go at the end of your life. How do you pass on the things you can’t see, though? Your values and beliefs, for example, or what you envision for your philanthropy?
An ethical will is a personal, reflective document that you write to yourself, for yourself. It’s a process to help you identify the values that guide your personal and professional life, and how closely your actions match your beliefs.
It’s not hard to write an ethical will, but it does take some time and thought. It helps to write the answers with pen and paper to start. Allow yourself to write freely, and avoid the temptation to edit as you go. Remember: you can always proof and polish it later, or record it as an audio or video file. Writing it out first with your hand is a way of embodying your message.
Begin by asking yourself these questions.