One of the most difficult steps in estate planning is not a logistical one, but an emotional one: the acceptance of mortality. Although we all know that death is inevitable, most of us have a tendency to avoid confronting its reality. This makes it difficult to plan for contingencies in a world that will no longer include us. Below are some specific areas that commonly cause trouble among loved ones left behind. It’s best to familiarize ourselves with these now, so that we can minimize any family squabbles after we’re gone.
While most people are well aware of the difficulties young children have when asked to share, many of us refuse to acknowledge how much conflict can develop when adults are forced to share. Designating several members of a family as recipients of equal shares of jointly owned property very often leads to trouble.
There are several reasons for this, including imbalances regarding where the heirs live (which may be different in the future than it is now), how much they earn, and how well they get along with one another. Equally divided responsibility for property taxes and repairs, for example, may seem inequitable to a child who earns less than his or her siblings, or who uses the property being maintained more rarely.
Bequests Left to Care for Pets
In the past, provisions in wills leaving money to care for pets were often unenforceable, but recently “pet trust” laws have been passed in every state except Minnesota. These laws protect your pet by assigning a probate court to appoint a trustee charged with the pet’s care. For even more control over the situation, you can draft a detailed pet trust, naming the caretaker and trustee and allocating part of your estate to cover the expenses of pet care. Because the trust is the legal owner of the pet, if for some reason the caretaker doesn’t provide appropriate care, the trustee can appoint a new one.
Unfortunately, while you may have accumulated a healthy number of frequent-flier miles, you may not be able to bequeath these miles to your loved ones. Because various airlines have different policies regarding this issue, and because such policies are changeable, your best bet is to use, or give away, your frequent flier miles as they accrue.
As this answer illustrates, estate planning is a more complicated process than it may appear to be. To avoid potential problems in asset protection and distribution, particularly those that may result in family conflict, please contact and work with a reputable, knowledgeable estate planning attorney.