10 Non-financial Planning Issues (Infographic)

Lesson #2 from Robin Williams – Your “Special Stuff” List

Another way (see the first way here) in which you can minimize fighting amongst your family after you’re gone is by creating a “special stuff” list before you go.

Creating a “Special Stuff” List Can Minimize Fighting Amongst Your Family After You’re Gone

Last week, we talked about having “The Conversation” with your kids and how it can really increase the chances that things will go as planned after you’re gone. This week we are really excited to offer you a special resource that will help you decide who should get what special possessions and heirlooms! (Keep reading for the FREE resource.)

Many families fight over the personal property “stuff” as much as they fight over money. (Sometimes even more than they fight over money.) When it comes to preventing a big fight after you die, it’s not enough to deal with the financial items. You must deal with property that has emotional or family value.

Because of this, I encourage clients to create a “special stuff list” that directs certain items to the people they want those items to go to. This list, which is officially called a Memorandum for Distribution of Personal Property, is then incorporated into the Will or Living Trust.

7 Things to Consider When Making Your “Special Stuff” List

1. What did your parents or grandparents pass down to you that you want to pass on?

2. What items bring back the most memories of your family time?

3. Have you discussed with family what they might want? Some families have a “lottery” style selection process where they openly discuss item by item what they may want. Others prepare a “fire inventory” list of their belongings and then send copies to their children, requesting that the children mark the items they want on a scale from 1-10 with 10 being they want that item the most. Once the children return their lists to the parents, the parents can then more adequately assess who will get what.

4. How will you preserve the stories behind the items? Write out the story, record a video or audio clip about it. Even a few short sentences will mean a lot when you’re gone.

5. Don’t rely on Post-it notes, masking tape or just assume, “The kids know who gets what.” This just doesn’t work!

6. Make sure your “special stuff” list or letter is signed and dated, with copies sent to your attorney. Also keep copies with your Will or Living Trust paperwork.

7. In order to better identify items, take photos and include them with your “special stuff” list.

A Few More Things to Consider…

While creating your list, don’t assume the things you find valuable will be the same things your family finds valuable. It’s always better to communicate about what you want to leave, and to whom, beforehand. Maybe you want your granddaughter to have your birthstone earrings, but maybe she’d rather have the old battered, blue pottery bowl that you used to  make pudding in together. You might never know the bowl was meaningful to her without a conversation, and you might even throw it out without any consideration, thinking, “Nobody’ll want this ol’ thing.”

DOWNLOAD Your FREE “Special Stuff” List Worksheet

It’s very difficult to see families torn apart by issues like “who gets Grandma’s yellow pie plate?” Our firm is always seeking ways to make planning easier for you, and we are really excited about our latest resource: Your “Special Stuff” List Worksheet. Set aside an afternoon to spend going through the worksheet line by line, and you should be well on your way to making sure your family will still be speaking to each other after you’re gone.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 217-726-9200. We will be more than happy to help you in any way possible.

robin williams; death; wills; trusts

A Lesson from Robin Williams: Having “The Conversation”

One way in which you can minimize fighting amongst your family after you’re gone is by having “The Conversation” before you go…

Does Your Family Have Trust Issues Like Robin Williams?

After his death in 2014, it appeared that Robin Williams did everything right when it came to estate planning. The bulk of his wealth was transferred through well-thought-out (and private) trusts that distributed his belongings to his three children while also providing for his current wife, so she could stay in the house they shared. And yet, his third wife and his three children still got involved in a court case with each other. So what happened? And what can we learn from this situation?

Effective Estate Planning Anticipates Emotions Will Run High

The first thing people should know is that all bets are off when someone dies. In the extremely emotional  environment of grief and loss, even the best families experience some stress and disagreement. It’s just hard to avoid. Every estate planning attorney could fill a book with unbelievable real life stories about this very thing.

Effective estate planning attorneys work hard to mitigate this risk and prevent these issues from tearing families apart. And that’s where “The Conversation” and the “Special Stuff List” come in. Over the next two weeks, we’ll look at two important actions you can take to minimize fighting in your family.

“The Conversation”

Just like the birds and the bees talk you once had with your kids when they were younger, this next conversation can bring up almost as much anxiety. Many times it’s “easier” to start a conversation about inheritance and estate planning during family gatherings or holiday get-togethers. I know. I know. That sounds like a real downer of a conversation for a family event, but let me assure you, it will be a lot less unpleasant than what your family will experience after you’re gone if you DON’T have “The Conversation” with them.

Here are 5 tips for talking about inheritance:

1. Share your own reasons or motives for bringing up the issue. Then try to clearly convey what values are really important to you. What’s important to accomplish with your assets after your death? What does fair mean to you? What does it look like? What items do you think have special meaning? What stories about those items need to be written down and shared with your family?

2. Ask “what if” questions to find out how your family feels about certain scenarios. “What if Mom had to go in a nursing home and I was already gone? Would you want to keep the house? What would you do with the stuff in the house?” Or “what if Mom and I downsized. What would you want us to keep?”

3. Clearly convey choices you’ve already made, like who is in charge of making decisions after you’re gone (or incapacitated). For example, if your will says that the children should share your estate 50/50, then one child may understand that to mean keeping the house and sharing it. The other child may see it as an opportunity to sell the house and get some money. Bam. Now you have a big fight and your children never speak to each other again. (This is a TRUE story.) It is vitally important to talk to your kids about how you want things done before you’re gone (and then make sure to tie it down legally, as well.)

4. Look for natural opportunities to talk about the issue. Sometimes the death of a neighbor or a friend can provide better timing for this conversation. Celebrity deaths like Robin Williams can also present good times to bring up the topic, especially if their estate is presenting problems you would like to avoid.

5. Listen. Remember that listening is an important part of communication and any conversation. Take time to listen to your family’s perspective and opinion throughout the course of “The Conversation.”

Having “The Conversation,” along with detailed and effective legal planning will go a long way in avoiding the problems that Robin Williams’ family is now having. Read more tips on having “The Conversation” here.

In a future blog post we’ll talk about creating your “Special Stuff List.” This special list further clarifies your wishes and intentions with regards to certain special pieces of property. (Like your paperweight collection or the antique shotguns you inherited from your grandfather.)

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 217-726-9200. We will be more than happy to help you in any way possible.

[Photo by Jacobo Hoyos Zea via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.]
non-financial estate planning issues

10 Non-financial Planning Issues You Should Consider

Effective planning doesn’t just involve money…

We tend to do things a little differently around here. After years of doing planning the traditional way (and seeing ways that the process could be improved), I started my own firm. Not only is it important for me to educate you about planning financially, I also want you to think about the non-money planning issues that are often overlooked by more traditional estate planning.

Not planning for non-financial issues can be just as tragic as not planning for more traditional money issues. This lack of planning can lead to poor quality of life for you, extra stress for your kids and loss of a legacy.

Here are 10 non-financial planning issues to consider and their solutions:

1. Healthcare. Who will make your healthcare decisions if you can’t? And will they know when to “pull the plug”? When they do pull the plug, will your organs be donated? Solution: You need to cover the proper legal authority through a healthcare power of attorney and a living will. Also, have conversations with your family about your wishes so they know, without a doubt, how you want them to act on your behalf.

2. Pets. Without a plan, your special dog may be bounced around from relative to relative or even put down because there is nowhere for him to go. Solution: Your will or trust can specify who will care for your pet and how the pet’s expenses will be paid after you are gone. (Which reminds me of one of my favorite estate planning jokes.)

3. Wisdom. What does your family stand for? What values were important to your parents and grandparents? Will your grandkids know about those? Solution: Take the time to reflect on these things and write them down. You can find resources for where to start online, or even hire someone to help you at the Association of Personal Historians.

4. Online or computer stuff. More and more of our lives are being lived online – Facebook, online photos, emails with your grandkids.  How will your family access that info after you’re gone? In this day and age it’s important to have a plan for this. (Read a real life story about it here.) Solution: You can store the information yourself in a safe deposit box, you can use one of the newly formed companies out there (SecureSafe or PasswordBox), or your attorney can keep the information for you.

5. Family heirlooms. Grandma’s old table, the shotgun with the homemade stock, the family Bible that’s over 100 years old. What will you pass on? And will you pass along the story that goes with it? Antique shops are filled with stuff that has some value to a stranger, but could have been priceless to family members, if only the story behind the item had been preserved. Solution: Take the time to clearly communicate your wishes or preserve the stories behind those special items. You can include the history of family items as part of your “special stuff list” or in a separate letter your family will get after you’re gone.

6. Guardians for kids. If people who don’t share your values end up raising your minor children, then the money you leave won’t really matter. Solution: We help clients make this tough choice through resources like our Child Raising Priorities Checklist.

7. Sibling relationships. If you become disabled and one child is the primary caregiver, will the rest of the family be prepared? Will the caregiver feel like no one else is helping out? Will the other siblings feel like the caregiver is overspending your money? Only you can know the answers to these questions. Solution: As part of our process we will discuss with you how to best choose helpers and how to make sure they know what to do when the time comes. Good planning helps avoid misunderstandings between siblings.

8. Burial wishes. Do you want to be cremated or have a visitation? What will your obituary say? Will you plan it out or leave it to your kids to decide (or fight about) during a time of grief and high stress? Creating a funeral plan or burial plan can be a real gift to your family and make the time of remembering you more meaningful. Solution: In Illinois, you can specify your wishes in your Disposition of Remains document, which provides binding burial instructions.

9. Living arrangements. If you’re near the end of your life, sick and unable to care for yourself, all the money in the world won’t matter if your living arrangements are not what you want for yourself. How important is it that you remain living on your own? Are there certain facilities you absolutely do not want to be placed in? Solution: As part of your disability instructions in your living trust, you can be very specific about how you want to be cared for and where you want to live.

10. End of life issues. Do you want to be kept alive with a feeding tube? Ventilator? Will your family know what your wishes are? If you are 85 years old with terminal cancer, would you want heart surgery just to prolong your life a few weeks or months? Solution: Your living will and healthcare power of attorney give the legal authority and instructions on those issues. But it is also very important to discuss these difficult issues with your family so they understand your preferences.

See our Infographic illustrating these issues HERE.

We are always happy to talk with you about any questions or concerns you might have. Just give us a call at 217-726-9200. And if you want to learn more about the process of planning, feel free to check out a free workshop. Our workshops are a great way to learn about our unique process.

The Value of Family Traditions

Ah, the holidays… a time when Michelle and I enjoy spending extra time with family. Family history and traditions mean a lot to us. Part of that family history involves names. Here are some interesting name connections in our family:

1. Otis – Bailey and Cole are the 5th generation in my dad’s family with a middle initial of “O.” My dad’s grandfather had the middle name Otis. My dad and grandpa had the middle name Oscar. Now I am David Otis and 4-year-old Cole has the middle name Otis as well. We kept it going with Bailey Olivia.

2. Bailey – Michelle’s Grandma Wilson had a maiden name of Bailey. Now Bailey is named after the family line.

3. Hall – Michelle’s maiden name is Hall. Her Grandma Hall was named Hall even BEFORE she was married. As she used to say, she was a “Hall and married a Hall.” Then came a lifetime of confusion about her maiden name and married name being the same!

4 generations picHere I am, circa 1971, with my Great Grandma Hise (whose husband had the middle name Otis), Grandma Edwards (holding me) and my father.

Does your family have a special naming history? Or any other traditions? This time of year is definitely a time when we think more often about those things that make our families unique and special. We’d love to hear about your family traditions. Share it on our Facebook page, and we might even feature it in a future email newsletter!

 

The Funny Birthday Hat: 5 Reasons Why Family Traditions Are Important

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the birthday hat. I wore it for my birthday a couple weeks ago. It’s really tall and colorful — kind of like something The Cat in the Hat would wear, only this hat has Mickey Mouse on it.

Like many families, we have our own special traditions. Family traditions are one of the things that make working with families so wonderful. No two are alike. Each one is special.My family’s birthday hat came about because my mom saw a similar tradition she liked with a friend of hers, so when my brother and his wife went to Disney, they found the perfect hat to start our family’s tradition. They bought it and carried it around the park all day. And then they hand carried it on the plane so it wouldn’t get squished! My mom received it as a Christmas present in 2005, and we’ve been celebrating with it ever since.

When Bailey was nearing her 4th birthday, my dad asked her what she wanted. She said, “I want to eat ice cream and wear the funny hat!” She recently turned 7 and she’s still wearing the hat for her birthdays.1475853_786756528004826_823737416_n

Why are family traditions so important? Here are 5 quick reasons:

1. They create memories that last a lifetime.
2. They give family members a stronger sense of belonging.
3. They help impart the family’s values.
4. They give children/teens a sense of security.
5. They keep generations in contact and give them something in common.

Family traditions have even been linked to higher family strength and higher family satisfaction. What special family traditions do you have for celebrating the milestones of life?

 

gamble estate plan

Do You Like to Gamble? Advice for Those Who Haven’t Planned Yet

Michelle and I don’t gamble very often. But when we do, watch out!

A few years go, the kids went to the grandparents’ and we spent the weekend in St. Louis. We were staying near Laclede’s Landing at a new hotel near the Lumiere Place Casino. The evening after we checked in, we headed out to do some serious gambling.

We stopped at the penny slots and started playing. About 10 minutes later, we hit a big jackpot! Being up all of $12, we decided to quit while we were ahead.

Do you enjoy gambling? We find that most of our clients don’t like to roll the dice about their planning. Instead, they want to tie it down so they can have real peace of mind.

Not planning ahead to protect your family and your assets is gambling.

What will happen if you die suddenly? What will happen if you need long term care?

Leaving things to chance is a gamble and the losses can be HUGE.

4 Reasons to Plan Ahead

With good planning, you can have real peace of mind and not gamble that these vitally important things will just work out. By planning ahead, you can avoid these 4 hardships:

1. Stress. You wouldn’t purposefully place extra stress on your spouse or your kids, would you? But a lack of planning on your part can do just that, leaving everyone to wonder, “What should we do? Who do we contact?” Good planning makes it easier on your loved ones by providing a clear plan.

2. Delay. Messy estate plans take longer to wrap up, causing the stress and extra work of an estate to drag on and on. Good planning helps things get wrapped up as quickly as possible.

3. Conflict. Lack of planning can lead to arguments in the family. Arguments between siblings, between the step-mom and step-kids, between nieces and nephews. Good planning will make it easier on the family, making less to fight about and less stress that can lead to conflict.

4. Loss of life savings. Lack of planning can result in the loss of your wealth — to the nursing home, to probate expenses, to taxes, to creditors or to wild spending by your heirs. Good planning will protect what you have worked so hard for.

If you’re interested in learning more about effective planning, check out one of our upcoming workshops. They are a free and no pressure way to get started! And, as always, if you have any questions at all or are unsure of what your next step should be, give us a call at 217-726-9200. We would be more than happy to chat with you.

Top Five Regrets of the Dying (and other interesting stuff we found around the web…)

You may have noticed that we live and breathe estate planning around here. We’re subscribed to many a list on the topic and are constantly attending conferences to brush up and make sure we’re at our best for our clients. We also surf the web a lot. Periodically we like to share with you some of the interesting articles we come across.

The Top 5 Regrets in Life from Those About to Die: A hospice nurse shares what she sees everyday.

Good Will Hunting: Wills aren’t just for the wealthy. If you have kids and a house, you definitely need one.

With Gravestone Barcode, Tomorrow Never Dies: how the latest trend of placing barcodes on headstones can preserve more than just names and dates.

Baseball, family legacies and estate planning

Cutest little Cards fan ever!

Baseball — it’s a family legacy. I just finished Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Wait Till Next Year, and while it might seem like a good title for Cubs’ fans, in this memoir Goodwin recounts growing up in Brooklyn during the 50’s and rooting for the Dodgers. For me, my baseball legacy is as a Cardinal fan, coming down from my grandfathers on both sides of the family. Much like Goodwin, my father taught me how to keep score when I was a kid, and I still like to keep score when I go to a game. Now, I have the pleasure of passing this legacy down to my kids. Bailey will already tell you she’s a Cardinal fan! And even though Cole can’t talk, he does have a Cardinal hat and t-shirt.

Estate Planning and Baseball

Here are a couple of interesting things I recently saw about baseball and estate planning:

Estate Fight Over Autographed Baseballs: One brother takes autographed baseballs from his parents’ house after his dad’s death. The other brother calls the cops and has him arrested. Read the full article HERE.

Catch a Ball, Get a Tax Bill: Did you hear about the guy who caught Derek Jeter’s home run ball for his 3000th hit? He gave the ball back, got lots of free stuff and now may face a tax! Why is that? Well, prizes generally considered income. Just like the Oprah audience who won a free car then got a tax bill for them. Good news on the Jeter baseball though, Miller Beer has offered to pay the fan’s tax bill!

What sports or family traditions are you passing on to your kids and grandkids? And what planning have you done for your autographed baseballs and the rest of your wealth?

$14 Million Gone In Just 12 Years! What will your kids do with their inheritance?

Check out this stunning article about blown inheritances:

Family’s Fall from Affluence is Swift and Hard

You might expect a story about blown inheritances to exclusively belong to the twenty-something crowd, but in a recent article from The New York Times we see that it can happen to anyone, no matter their age. Quick money can disappear just as quickly as it appears!

Are your loved ones ready to inherit from you? What would they do with the money? Would they have any left after just a few years? What if there was a way to help them handle your hard-earned money after you’re gone?

An effective estate plan does more than just transfer the money. A good estate plan also sets your family up for success and helps them be prepared for whatever may come their way.

Take a quiz here on our website to see if your family is ready. And even if you think they’re ready, you may want to reconsider after reading this article again!