A lot of Americans believe that inheritance should be simple. They think a child or other appointed heir should get everything that a person owned when he or she died. Many people live by that principle, never bothering to make estate plans or write a proper legal will. But this is not a good strategy, as inheritance can get complicated without clear instructions.
There are a lot of details to work out when it is time to consider plans for the end of life. Many people put off this task because it's difficult to think about. One way to approach the issue is to consider one's own preferences when dealing with the end of life. Often, a living will is a key element in an estate plan.
Estate planning is a difficult subject to introduce at the table, especially for children. It is natural to wonder how children will handle the estate of parents after their lives or during a time of mental incapacity. It is also important because a good estate plan when someone can make one is an investment for a time when others will have to make decisions.
America has entered and left the Age of Stuff. Generations that preceded us relied on their possessions to feed, clothe and house them by making household tasks easier or letting us be more efficient at work. But, in a time when most consumer products are disposable and many electronic devices fulfill multiple needs at once, people are less interested in dealing with their parents' and grandparents' possessions.
Many people never get around to developing an estate plan -- even a simple will. They figure they'll do it when they get older. Of course, no one knows what the future holds. If a person dies without a will in Tennessee, their assets will be distributed to family members according to state intestacy laws -- regardless of how the deceased person felt about any of these family members or how close they were in life.
Many people choose to create living trusts when they develop their estate plans. They can place many of their assets, including their home and bank accounts, in the trust. There are numerous advantages to having a living trust. Chief among them is that it makes your estate easier and quicker to settle after you're gone.
If you've got a child turning 18 next year, you're likely concerned with things like how you're going to pay for college and how you'll adjust to them being away from home. You're probably not thinking about estate planning for them. That's many decades down the road, right?
A loved one has passed away, and you learn that you were named the executor of the estate. Too often, when people craft their estate plans, they never get around to asking the person they choose as their executor if they're willing to fulfill the role. Sometimes, people will agree to the responsibility and then forget all about it until the time comes.
One of the many advantages of working with an attorney to create a thorough estate plan is that you can take steps to keep it private. Many people don't realize that if they have only a will in place, that will must go through a probate court in order for the instructions in it to be carried out. That makes it a public court record.
If you're preparing to put your estate plan in place, you may be considering doing so without discussing it with your adult children. It's understandable that you want to avoid awkward conversations about how much each one is inheriting and who's getting which family heirlooms.