Preserving Grandma’s Legacy, 01-10-2010

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 travelling 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 then: 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.

You decide to talk with grandma about her estate plan. You make a list of things to discuss with grandma:

  1. A Special Needs Trust for Uncle Mitch
  2. Asset Protection for Aunt Karen
  3. 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 having 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 meet with an experienced estate planning attorney from Morris Hall.