Seven Things You Can Do Now for Your Future Heirs

Having achieved an empty nest status and being in the fullness of their productive lives (including the beginning stages of retirement!), the Baby Boom generation now can contemplate what will happen to their offspring and the results of their personal and economic achievements.

Perhaps having been the recipient of a legacy or inheritance from ‘The Greatest Generation’ (their parents or grandparents), they may have experienced first hand some of the pain of having to settle an estate of a decedent. Many in the Greatest Generation were taught that money is a taboo subject and therefore did not communicate anything about their estate or their plans for it on their deaths. This caused some pain for their heirs in trying to get the estate settled.

Some Baby Boom generation members are hoping to alleviate that pain for their own heirs. If you are part of that group, here are 7 things you can do to make the transition of your estate easier for your heirs.

Talk to them now.

Set their expectations about your estate. If you plan to spend it all, let them know! If they will be getting a monetary sum, consider letting them know it’s current value. If you are hoping they will use it for something specific – talk to them about it. If you want to ensure that they receive a non-financial legacy – make sure they know what it is and why it is special to you.

If you have already done estate planning, share at least some of it with your heirs. Let them know what you did and why you did it. If you haven’t done your planning, consider involving them in the process somehow. Let them know what you value and how that has or will influence your planning.

Organize your estate plan and other documents.

Make a list of documents along with their locations for:

  • wills
  • trusts
  • pensions and retirement accounts and plans (such as 401Ks or IRAs)
  • insurance policies
  • real estate deeds
  • certificates for stocks, bonds, annuities
  • information on bank accounts, mutual funds, and safe deposit boxes and other locked or hidden places – including a list of items in them
  • information on retirement plans, 401(k) accounts, or IRAs
  • information on debts: credit cards, mortgages and loans, utilities, and unpaid taxes
  • information on Totten trusts or funeral prepayment plans, and any final arrangements instructions you have made – including who to notify.
  • family history, including the location of photographs, heirlooms, and other irreplaceable items.

Make sure they have needed access.

Make a list of online items and other for which you have a user name and password or personal identification number (PIN), include your account name, user name, password, PIN, response challenges and answers or the combination or location of keys. Common items include:

  • computers
  • Internet service providers or Web hosting services
  • email accounts
  • online services
  • software applications
  • cell phones and pagers, and
  • personal digital assistants (PDAs).
  • vehicle and home alarm systems
  • home safes
  • mailboxes or gates, and
  • locked boxes, drawers, or cabinets.

Give them some of your assets now.

If you plan to leave fairly substantial assets to your children, grandchildren or other heirs and you aren’t quite sure if they are ready to receive a lot of money, then consider giving that person or persons a portion of the assets now and observe what they do. Depending on the outcome, you may be fine with your current plan, or you may decide to alter it (to provide for the heir in a manner they can handle).

Introduce them to your advisers.

Let them meet – and have an opportunity to ask questions of – the advisers you used to develop your estate plans. They most likely will need to work with these advisers when the time comes. You may find that their questions cause a change in your plans.

Help them understand what happens after a death.

They may not have any experience with death. Help them understand the decisions they will be asked to make or implement for your funeral and final disposition. Walk your executor (if they are an heir and not an institution) through what is expected of that position. Talk about how long it can take to get an estate settled and what emotional or administrative battles they may encounter along the way.

Begin or continue to pass along family stories, traditions and legacies.

If your parents are still alive, consider recording an audio or video memoir of them talking about their lives. Ask your heirs if they would like to record one with you of your life.

If you hold periodic family meetings, make sure that telling stories about family history is included as a standing agenda item.

Consider writing your autobiography or at least an ‘Ethical Will’ – a last written document in which you can share your values, insight, wisdom and experiences with future generations.

Sources include:

The Executors Resource Settling a Loved One’s Estate or Trust by Mary Randolf J.D. Copyright 2008 published by Nolo

“Quicken WillMaker Plus – Estate Planning Essentials” copyright 2010 published by Nolo

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