When you were younger, grandma’s attic held such fascination for you. The hat boxes and old clothes were great fun when playing dress-up. There were old records of “Big Band” music. It was like traveling back to an earlier time.
But, the years have taken their toll. You can barely move in the attic now, in part because you aren’t a child of six anymore, but mostly because of all of the odds and ends grandma has continued to collect. You decide to ask grandma if she would like help going through the attic and organizing it. Some things can be discarded, while others the family would love to be able to have on display. You know if you wait until grandma’s gone, it would be a much more difficult process…not to mention that you’d lose out on all those cherished family stories!
Before dusting off the shelves and looking at the memorabilia, you pull out the box marked “IMPORTANT PAPERS.” As you are going through old papers, you find grandma’s estate planning documents, buried under layers of dust. The documents were dated two decades ago, just before grandpa died. You know how smoothly things went, from a legal perspective. Of course, in many ways things were far easier than: Grandma got all the assets. After grandma dies, the assets will have to be split among her three kids, Aunt Karen, Uncle Mitch, and your mom.
Also, since the estate plan was drafted, the family’s circumstances have changed. Uncle Mitch was in an auto accident a few years ago and needs medical and custodial care, which he cannot afford without government assistance. If Uncle Mitch inherited the assets as currently drafted, they would all go to Medicaid to pay for his care, since they are not left in a “Special Needs Trust.”
Likewise, Aunt Karen’s family has been struggling through these hard economic times. It would be awful if Aunt Karen’s inheritance were lost to creditors.
You and your spouse recently consulted with an experienced estate planning attorney about your own estate plan. He included provisions to protect against these sorts of situations. He also included a “My Legacy Workbook” to preserve your own family stories and information, because that is really a central part of anyone’s legacy.
You decide to talk with grandma about her estate plan. You make a list of things to discuss with grandma:
- A Special Needs Trust for Uncle Mitch
- Asset Protection for Aunt Karen
- My Legacy Workbook (to preserve those stories)
- Update who is Trustee, Executor, etc.
You know how much better she’ll feel knowing it’s up-to-date. Having an up-to-date estate plan prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney will help preserve her legacy and make infighting after her death less likely.
Of course, each relationship is unique, so the conversation would be slightly different for each person. But, it is easy to gently, tactfully raise the topic of estate planning. Once it’s done, everyone will feel much better. We are all relieved to have our legacy preserved. Of course, you’ll be relieved knowing that you’ve helped the family avert problems down the road. That’s why you’ll encourage her to go to an experienced estate planning attorney who focuses his or her practice in that area.
Mr. Ronald “Chip” Morrison, Jr. is a Board-Certified Specialist in Estate Planning and Administration by the Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization and a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys. He has been engaged in Louisiana trusts and estate law for the last 16 years. The firm serves clients throughout southern Louisiana. For more information or to attend an upcoming seminar, please call our office at (504) 831-2348 or contact us through our website.