By Debra A. Verni, Esq.
Only about 40 percent of adults in America
have a will, which may not be entirely surprising.
No one wants to be reminded of their own
mortality or spend too much time thinking
about what might happen once they’re gone.
Many people are uncomfortable discussing
how they will distribute their estate with their
children. Perhaps you don’t want your children
to realize how much they may receive after your
death. Or you may think your choice of heirs
could change in the future.
However, if you don’t discuss your estate
plan, disagreements and conflicts could erupt
once the details of inheritances are revealed.
For instance, siblings may resent each other
if distributions are not equal. Children may
resent a spouse from a second marriage if they
feel that spouse is using up their inheritance.
At that time, you won’t be able to explain your
thoughts and wishes regarding the distribution
of your estate.
Discussing your estate plans will give you an
opportunity to inform your children about the
distribution of your estate and why you decided
to do it in that manner. You can go into specific
detail, informing children how each asset will
be distributed, or you can give a general overview
of your estate plan. If you have selected
one child as executor or trustee, explain why
you chose that individual. As an alternative,
you can leave a personal letter with your estate
planning documents explaining these items.
Even if you reveal your plans to children,
you may also want to include a personal letter.
In that letter, include information about death
and other benefits, special wishes, who should
receive personal effects, your cemetery and
funeral preferences, and the location of your
safe deposit box and important documents.
At a minimum, specify where the following
documents are located: income tax returns, life
insurance policies, other insurance policies,
investment details, a list of household contents,
outstanding loan documentation, automobile
titles, important warranties and receipts,
checking account information, credit card
details, and information about your home.
This letter will help your heirs identify all assets
and benefits and avoid speculation about
Preparing the letter will also force you to
organize your records and make sure all important
documents can be easily located. Since
the information is likely to change, review the
letter at least annually.
You have worked hard to create a legacy for
your loved ones. You deserve to decide what
becomes of it.
Verni is a partner with the Herzog Law Firm
PC, which has an office in Saratoga Springs.
Photo Courtesy Herzog Law Firm PC