Should You Talk to a Lawyer? by Stella Knight Nov 2017

Should You Talk to a Lawyer?

Avoid Confusion and Controversy
Write a Letter to Your Executor

By: Stella Knight
While some of you have prepared your wills, many of you are thinking of either writing or updating your wills. Here are a few suggestions that may avoid confusion and controversy in the future. A “will” is a legal instrument that allows a person to dispose of his property at his death. Newspaper headlines confirm that an estate does not have to be worth a fortune for family members’ tempers to flare and emotions to run hot. A family feud doesn’t have to erupt when you are gone.

A will may bring family members together and settle unresolved disputes. The first step is appointing the right person to act as Executor. The Executor is the person responsible for executing the will: collecting the decedent’s property, paying debts, and distributing the property to the named beneficiaries. It’s best to select an Executor because he or she is a competent and well-organized person. Ideally, in addition to these “business-like” skills, the Executor should have “people skills.” The Executor will have many conversations with beneficiaries on the emotional edge. Therefore, the Executor should be compassionate and slow to anger. He should be diplomatic and a consensus builder.

Next time you are updating your will, instead of automatically selecting your oldest child as Executor, think about geographic location, diplomatic skills, and family harmony. Many children would prefer a third-party, such as an Uncle or your attorney, as Executor rather than have their pushy, know-it-all brother as sole Executor. If you don’t have a third-party, perhaps naming two family members as co-Executors is a solution. Whatever your decision, explain your choice. This can either be done in your will or you may write an informal letter outside of your will.

A letter to your Executor does not distribute your property and does not carry any legal weight. However, a letter gives you the opportunity to explain your will and to clarify your intentions. What should you include in this letter?

  1. Include why you are making the distributions in your will. This is important particularly if the distributions are unusual. This will not prevent a will contest, but it will allow people to understand how you were thinking so that your wishes may be carried out.
  2. A list of your assets and where they are located. You could save your Executor a lot of time and expense searching for your assets if you make a list.
  3. Describe your wishes about funeral or cremation arrangements, including place of burial.
  4. A list of persons to contact such as family, friends, and professional advisors – attorney, accountant and financial planner.
Give this letter to your Executor and be sure to keep a copy with your will or trust instrument. In addition, giving a copy to each of your children would probably prevent future hurt feelings and trouble. Much unpleasantness can be avoided by open communication. Trouble comes when people are upset and surprised.

The information contained in this column is of a general nature and does not constitute legal advice.
Should You Talk to a Lawyer? by Stella Knight Nov 2017 Should You Talk to a Lawyer?  by Stella Knight Nov 2017 Reviewed by kensunm on 3:00:00 PM Rating: 5

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