There are many components to the area of estate planning. The major ones that come to mind include the preparation of your last will and testament and ensuring adequate life insurance is in place to meet your needs. But what about all those other areas:
I was reminded recently of the importance of some of these areas. A long-term client, for whom I handled his tax planning (although not his investments), passed away just before Christmas at the age of 91. He had a very successful business career and was very well-respected in his industry, maintaining contact with many of his co-workers. He and his wife, who predeceased him, had no children, and his surviving brother is in the U.K. A number of years ago, he asked me to be his co-executor, along with his lawyer.
He was very conscientious in documenting how he wanted his estate distributed and what plans were to be implemented – down to where he wants his ashes scattered, and the company to use to clean out his apartment. When news came of his death, our decisions regarding his funeral were easy – one call to the funeral home with which he had contracted and things fell readily into place. We were able to focus our efforts on providing a means for at least 60 of his friends and business colleagues to celebrate his life.
He also kept a list of all of his assets up to date, and we reviewed it each year. This included his bank accounts, insurance policies, investment accounts, etc. Because I have prepared his tax return for the past number of years, I could readily identify what pension plans had to be notified of his death. Names and addresses of his beneficiaries, who are in various locations around the world, were also documented and kept up to date.
The result has been a relatively smooth process to get the ball rolling for the gathering in and distribution of his estate assets, while providing what we hope was a good send off.
We don’t like to think about our death, but it is inevitable. Often we have our wills prepared, review our insurance and think we have completed our estate plan. But what about all those other areas? Have you defined your wishes? Have you discussed them with family members (an often difficult but very important communication)? Have you made any formal pre-arrangements?
When our clients come in for their annual review meeting, this topic will be on the agenda. Is it on yours?