As the holidays approach, many of us will be getting together with family to give thanks, spend time with our families, and eat more than our fair share of pie. And while we have many reasons to be thankful for all that we have, very few of us are doing enough to protect our family’s piece of the pie by implementing a Houston estate plan.
CBC News in Toronto recently released an article titled “Estate Planning: Talking with family about dividing the pie”, in which they revealed a survey that showed that forty percent of Canadians aged 65 and older felt unprepared when it came to their estate plan. As the article points out, estate planning is not just for the rich, and a little estate planning can save a huge amount of stress (and potentially money) in the future.
Many of us hesitate to bring up the subject of death or estate planning during the holidays, which is a time of celebration. However, this is often the best time to discuss these matters with your family members since many family members are together in one place at the same time. Here are some tips to help you:
Try to have a family meeting. As mentioned above, the holidays are a great time to get the entire family together, ask questions, and let everyone know what your wishes are. Take some time before you meet to decide how you want to frame the discussion and want you want to accomplish during the meeting.
Don’t forget about personal items. As a Houston estate planning attorney, one of the things I see constantly is relatives fighting over who will get grandmother’s wedding ring or who will get the collection of coffee cups that no one seemed to want while grandmother was alive. To the extent that everyone can agree on who will receive your personal items after you die, this will help avoid confrontation and discord in the family. If you have a Texas last will and testament, the Will can provide that you may leave a handwritten note detailing who will get your personal items after you die.
Update your estate plan. The only constant in life is change, and your estate plan is no different in that regard. Your family situation, finances, and wishes can change frequently, and you should take some time each year to sit down and review your estate planning documents and make sure they still reflect your wishes and are appropriate given any changes in your family situation or finances. If nothing has changed, then you will have the satisfaction of knowing your assets and your family is protected. If anything has changed dramatically, you should contact your estate planning attorney to review your estate plan and determine whether any changes need to be made.
Several people in Houston and The Woodlands have come to me in the middle of a dispute with a sibling over how to handle a parent’s estate. One of the best things you can do to avoid this situation is to have an open, honest conversation with your family about your wishes concerning your estate plan, and try to resolve any issues before you die, at which point it may be too late.
Reference: CBC News (Oct 12, 2014) “Estate planning: Talking with family about dividing the pie“