As estate planners, we spend a lot of time asking our clients to put their essential documents in place in case disaster strikes – documents such as your Will or Revocable Trust as well as your ancillary documents like your health care power of attorney and living will declaration, for instance.
For their part, clients often worry about who might get what asset and whether there will be a tax impact to their planning.
But, we all know that, while we want the documents to assure that we are able to leave the assets to the persons we want in the manner we want, the REAL magic we want those documents to work is to take away the pain of loss caused by our death – and there is the rub – we know that only time can help the pain.
What we can address is the anxiety caused by the loss and create greater calm. How?
Essential documents lay the ground work for good planning but there is so much detail to daily living that is, by necessity, left out of those essential documents – and, yet, so much more is left to be said…
Consider drafting a memorandum of intent – a roadmap, if you will, of your daily living – no, it’s not binding but it sure is helpful.
If you have minor children, for instance, it would be ideal to tell your successor what a typical day might entail, what stuffed animal brings comfort at night, what foods are absolutely hated – all the things that make life NORMAL for your child and are taken for granted now, would be a marvelous communication for someone picking up where you left off after you were so suddenly taken away. If it is just you and your spouse, telling your spouse how you handle the various mundane household things and all the passwords in the computer will be invaluable to picking up the pieces.
Include the contact information for those family and friends who did not make the Contact List contained in your Estate Portfolio but, nonetheless, are important elements of your daily life in consequential ways such as for play dates or as regular bridge partners. If you have a particular religious practice (always the 9:15 children’s mass), or favorite foods on holidays (stuffoli) or unique traditions, include those.
Leaving a roadmap of what makes your life peculiarly YOURS to accompany your Will or your Revocable Trust in your Estate Portfolio will make it so much easier for your loved ones if you cannot be there suddenly. Reducing anxiety helps time heal pain.
Pre-Plan Your Memorial Wishes
Consider planning your memorial ahead of time. You probably planned everything else for your family while you were living. After all, this is not really about you, is it? Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But, it is about helping your family move forward.
You can find the location of the gathering or service; identify who should be invited; whether there should be a ceremony; who should speak at the service or say the eulogy; whether your body will be present in a casket and, if so, whether the casket should be open or closed; how you wish to be attired; whether you wish to be cremated; who you wish to be your pallbearers; what special music, readings, food or drink you would like at your service; whether you would prefer flowers or memorial donations; indeed, any number of specifics can be spelled out.
In fact, as you review the foregoing list of items that could be addressed, you can see why it makes so much more sense for you to do this ahead of time rather ask that your children or your spouse do this for you when, during your life, you liked to plan so much else!
If you prepay for your plan, you will want to research the company you plan to use and feel comfortable that they will be able to deliver the services for which you have contracted at the time you need them.
Yes, Write Your Own Obituary
Consider writing your own obituary. While this may sound morbid, it can actually be a wonderful opportunity for you to review all the highlights of your life and celebrate everything you want to share with your friends and family. At the very least, you will want some accuracy in what is provided, so be sure to write down:
• your date and place of birth;
• family information, including the names of your spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings;
• details about your education, employment, or military service; and
• memberships in organizations.
So, in conclusion, give your family peace of mind. What a great New Year’s resolution!
Copyright © 2013 Barbara M. Pizzolato, P.A.
Barbara M. Pizzolato, Esq.
After obtaining her J.D. from New York Law School in 1987, Ms. Pizzolato obtained her license to practice law in New Jersey (1987), New York (1988), Connecticut (1988) and Florida (2002).
Since moving to Fort Myers, FL in 2002, Ms. Pizzolato has maintained her license to practice law in NJ, NY, CT and FL and actively practices law in NY, NJ and FL.
Ms. Pizzolato is a member of:
. The Florida Bar (Real Property, Probate & Trusts and Business Law Sections)
. The Lee County Bar Association;
. The American Bar Association (Litigation, Practice Management and Tax Sections);
. The New York State Bar Association; and
. The Suffolk County Bar Association.
Ms. Pizzolato has represented thousands of clients in generating and implementing their estate plans since opening her own practice in 1994 and accepts invitations to speak on trusts and estates topics.
www.pizzolatolaw.com | 239.225.7911