Darcy Houghton: Start of year a good time to revisit an estate plan
As we begin 2014 and begin looking at new year’s resolutions, I suspect someone will vow to “get the estate plan completed.” While there is no time like the present to start an estate plan, each year it is also good to revisit the plan that has previously been prepared — and make sure that the people listed are still in a good position to do what they will need to do.
Also, if you have a trust, you should confirm that all appropriate assets are placed into the trust. Good estate plans take into account some level of change and the fact that people may buy and sell assets or even start using certain assets to fund retirement while not using others. Good plans are technically sound and will help heirs through a legal process. However, at the legacy level there is more to pass than just the instructions in even the best trust plans … the heart, soul, and passions of the patriarch or matriarch of the family.
I recently heard a newscast that indicated that current heirs are desperate to find are the sentimental writings or memoirs of their loved ones. Then I read a great novel that told the stories of several families occurring during a period spanning 300 years. It was incredibly interesting to see people and their heirs crossing paths over multiple generations but not realizing the close and even intimate relationships that members of the prior generations had held. Being in the estate-planning business, I thought about that a lot! What can we do with our legacy planning to help our heirs understand who we are and what is/was really important to us?
The answer is to record it. But what would we record? Of course, there are books out there, as well as companies that will help you develop a video/digital memoir. These range from inexpensive and trivial to incredibly beautiful, but those come with a price. To help you get started, I thought of some top-10 lists that might help you get started: best family stories, most memorable or joy-filled life-events, most impactful people, things you would like to be remembered for, most important beliefs or values that guided you through thick and thin, your greatest dreams for your loved ones or maybe even the lessons hardest learned. I would think that a Top 10 list of just the above topics would give your heirs a wonderful sentimental keepsake, and it might even clear some air in the family!
All of the sentiment in the world can be destroyed by not having an estate plan that works. However, an estate plan that works, by itself, likely won’t touch or guide a family. Both could be an enormous blessing for your loved ones.
Best wishes for your planning in 2014!
Darcy Houghton is a resident of Carson City and accepts cases in estate planning and business law. She may be reached at 775-882-1777, or visit her website at http://www.hou2plan.com.