Protecting Your Legacy
How to Convey Your Wishes to Those Closest to You
How do you want people to remember you? Your legacy belongs to you and to you alone, therefore, you are the best resource to communicate those wishes to your loved ones.
But does the thought of initiating a conversation with your loved ones about your wishes make you cringe? Rest assured, there are creative ways to spin this conversation in a different light. While you are alive and well, you have the opportunity to create the most fabulous going-away party ever! Losing ‘you’ is going to be difficult enough for your loved ones when the time comes. If you take the time now to go out in style, you will give your loved ones the opportunity to celebrate your life in a positive manner, and make it easier on them at the same time.
But first, you’ll want to be certain your estate planning documents are in order.
Modifying Your Estate Plan
If you’ve already completed your initial estate plan, you already have the necessary groundwork in place to ensure your wishes will be fulfilled. From time to time you’ll want to review your plan to ensure that your documents are up to date and that they reflect your current wishes. We recommend a review of your estate planning documents every 3 years, or whenever a life event, such as a change in marital status or the death of a loved one, has occurred. If these or any other family dynamics have occurred since your documents were last executed, you’ll want to make an appointment with your estate planning attorney to prepare and/or update your documents accordingly.
WHO DO YOU TRUST?
Be sure to communicate with your attorney any family dynamics that play a part in your life situation. Perhaps you want to change your Personal Representative (“PR”), yet you are hesitant to do so. For example, you may trust your youngest son more than your firstborn. Yet you feel obligated to name your firstborn as PR even though he is irresponsible and haphazard. Don’t allow your emotions to rule these very important decisions. Think clearly and logically about the person who will best represent your wishes when you are no longer here. Your attorney will guide you and help ease your mind as you make these decisions. Your attorney is knowledgeable and well able to craft your documents in a diplomatic way to ease your mind in situations like this. Lose the guilt, and enjoy your life while you still have it!
Some clients prefer to bring their PR along to the attorney’s office to discuss their estate planning modifications. This is perfectly acceptable and can offer comfort to you as you work with your attorney to make the best decision for your situation. Still, other clients prefer to share their decisions with their attorney alone. The choice is yours. However, you will want to discuss your choices with your loved ones, either as you make the decisions, or after your documents have been modified, in order to communicate your wishes to them, or at least inform them of who you have selected to represent you after your death.
LIVING WILL? HEALTH CARE SURROGATE?
Have your wishes changed with regard to your healthcare? You’ll want to be certain your Living Will and Healthcare Surrogate are updated to accurately reflect your wishes. Your attorney can draft healthcare documents that accomplish this to ensure you are properly cared for, and that your wishes are communicated appropriately to those who need to know.
KEEP YOUR DOCUMENTS IN A SAFE PLACE
Last month we showed you how to create a Bucket Binder system in order to track and store your signed documents (see January 2018’s post). No matter what method you choose to store your documents, you’ll want to be certain your documents are stored in a safe place. Most clients prefer that we retain an original set in our vault files. This way, you can rest assured that your original documents are held in a secure location.
Now that your estate planning documents are complete, you’ll want to start the conversation and communicate to your loved ones that your affairs are in order. If you fail to inform them, you’ll leave them wondering, and they might not be comfortable bringing it up to you. When you take a proactive approach and initiate the conversation, you will be in a better position to maintain charge of the conversation rather than succumbing to questions that may otherwise come your way. Below are some simple ideas to help break the ice to move your conversation in the right direction.
REVERSE THE CONVERSATION
If you have a hard time broaching the subject of your Last Will and other estate planning arrangements with your family, reverse the role. “I found a great attorney to assist me with my estate planning. I realize you’re a lot younger than I am, but have you had a chance to take care of your own estate planning?” This simple question can open the door for a much deeper discussion regarding your own plan.
KEEP IT LIGHTHEARTED
Obviously, the purpose of your discussion is one of high importance and not to be taken lightly. On the other hand, if you are having difficulty starting the conversation, lighten the mood. For example, what are some things on your bucket list that you’d like to accomplish? Would you like to take a cruise on the French Riviera, or go on an African safari? An opening might be, “I just rented a documentary on an African Safari, and I’m giving serious thought to going on one myself.” This statement is a great lead-in to a conversation that you will then be in charge of, thereby steering the conversation as you deem fit.
If you’ve placed your documents into a Bucket Binder, why not plant it in plain sight when you are expecting your trusted PR to come over for a visit? Then, over a good strong cup of coffee you can start by saying, “Look at the cool binder I just picked up! It comes in fabulous colors, and I just had to have the red one to draw attention to my life wishes.” Your loved one may look at you a bit cross-eyed, but that’s okay. It’s a great way to start the conversation. Then, be sure to put it back into that safe place we spoke of earlier.
REFLECT ON A NEWS STORY
Too often we’ve heard stories about someone who is in the middle of a heated healthcare battle between family members and legislature. This is a great time to put yourself into another’s shoes and discuss the case with your loved ones. You can then broach the subject and convey to them the choices that you have already executed in your own documents.
Modifying or creating an estate plan and how you wish to convey that information to a loved one is truly a personal choice. Our customized estate planning here at Payne Law Group will help you achieve your end of life wishes, considering your own unique situation. Our attorneys are here to assist you throughout this process. We count it an honor to work together with you to protect your legacy—the legacy you’ve worked so hard to achieve.