One of the Best Gifts – Peace of Mind

In this season of gift-giving, one of the best gifts a person can give to their family isn’t found under a tree or subject to physical transfer of a tangible item. Typically it is not wrapped in shiny, fancy packaging or tied up with a pretty ribbon.

Some time ago our monthly letter described the problems faced by the family of the famous singer and musician Prince who died without a will.  People came out of the woodwork claiming to be a relative or child entitled to a piece of his estate and its settlement demanded expensive and burdensome litigation.  Recent stories about the impact of the sudden death of Zappos co-founder, multi-millionaire Tony Hsieh and the effect of his dying without a will show how important the gift of a well-considered, comprehensive estate plan tailored to a family’s particular needs can be.

In the absence of a will, his family and in particular his father and brother who are asking the courts to appoint them as special administrators of his estate, may have to rely upon numerous post-it notes identifying the location of his property and his desires.  These are of questionable legal weight.

An estate plan can consist just of a will but in many cases use of a trust is appropriate.  Properly drafted and funded, a trust can avoid probate, and maintain the confidentiality of a family’s assets and desires.  Putting a plan in place ensures that your wishes about the disposition of your assets go to those who you want to receive them, not to those to whom the law directs.  A proper plan can ease the burden on your loved ones during an already difficult time and minimizes the chances of intra-family squabbles that can destroy relationships.  And in our current climate it is more important than ever.

On a personal note: one of the greatest gifts that my late mother bequeathed to me was insisting that I tour her apartment with her before she passed so she could show me where all her important papers were located, which did not need to be retained and her thoughts about who should receive family heirlooms and household items that held great meaning for her.

Though holiday treats can be made with a cookie cutter, drafting an estate plan should take into account the unique desires, particular assets and liabilities of the planning party.  Our firm prides itself on tailoring plans to meet the needs of our clients which we learn through meetings and consultations with them.  We would welcome the opportunity to provide you with the peace of mind and serenity that knowing your affairs are in order can bring and the gift of certainty that you can give to your family, friends and, if appropriate, charitable causes.

And, of course, please accept our sincere wishes for a happy, healthy and safe holiday season and New Year.

Written by Attorney David B. Goldstein,dbg@hgplaw.com.

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