While one of the world’s largest financial and banking service groups reports that a majority of U.S. retirees expect to leave average inheritances of $175,000 to their families, a recent survey found that most people do not care about the money. Most Americans over the age of 70 value family keepsakes and personal items over monetary inheritances, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.
While younger generations may prefer cash when an elderly relative passes away, baby boomers are more likely to receive estate proceeds from loved ones in the next number of years. The survey found that mementos and family heirlooms are far more important to surviving family members, as are family stories and personal histories passed down through the generations.
No matter the amount of assets you have to pass on to your family, it is important to use an estate plan to help avert any family disputes that may arise over personal items. It is often insufficient to communicate your wishes to family as mourning loved ones may forget what was told to them years previously. Will contests and other type of litigation may also be avoidable with a properly executed estate plan.
As you prepare to meet with an estate planning lawyer, be prepared to discuss the following issues:
• Executors: Who is best able to execute the provisions of your will, and who will step in if that person is unable or unwilling to perform his or her duties?
• Personal property: How will you divide family heirlooms and keepsakes among your children and grandchildren? Are there specific items you want to go to other relatives or special friends who are not related to you?
• Charitable organizations: Would you like to donate a portion of your estate assets to a charity? You may wish to provide first for your children and then divide a portion between numerous favorite organizations.
• Guardianships: Who will act as guardian or co-guardians of your minor children or family members under your care who have special needs?
These are only some of the issues you may wish to mull over before sitting down with an estate planning professional. Keep in mind that the following items are not included in your will and must be handled separately:
• Burial preferences
• Life insurance proceeds
• Retirement benefits
• Jointly held real estate or other assets
• Illegal or immoral requests
Consult a lawyer
Make it a New Year’s resolution to consult an experienced estate planning lawyer in 2014. A New Jersey attorney knowledgeable about probate, will contests and estate administration can help ensure that your wishes are carried out.