The Family Love Letter
Often the focus of estate planning begins and ends with the execution of proper documents and the titling of assets. It is very common for surviving family members to lack information about the assets, liabilities and intentions.
For example, how many children know where a parent wants to be buried, or who the pallbearers should be? Have you articulated anything pertaining to the “non-financial” inheritance you would like to pass on, such as life lessons, family stories, or values? Watch our video below to learn more:
What Kind of Legacy Do You Want to Pass On?
While many people are reluctant to discuss the tragedy of their death or disability with family members, there is typically less reluctance about leaving written information behind. This is the purpose of the Family Love Letter (see a sample here). Estate planning is not fundamentally about those who have passed away and the avoidance of a death tax. Instead, its most important goal should be to provide “A Legacy for the Living.”
The incapacity or death of a family member is always a traumatic event. But the emotional turmoil and family pain is often magnified by the resulting confusion over the plans, assets and desires of an incapacitated or deceased family member. The mental fogginess that accompanies the family’s trauma is exasperated by the inability to make basic decisions because of the lack of basic information.
Here is an example of an all-too-common experience:
- The father of a client was committed to a long-term nursing facility because of Alzheimers. The client spent four days going through her father’s papers (and making endless phone calls) trying to locate basic information about his life, long-term care, health and disability insurance policies. She also had to determine whether he had filed his income tax returns, and discern his assets, debts and benefits from military service. Even after going through the process, she was never quite sure she had a full grasp of all the things she should know. The Family Love Letter is designed to substantially minimize this lingering worry.
This is an example of the advantages of having a Family Love Letter & Organizational Plan is in place:
- Recently, a widowed client came to our office for a consultation. He had no children. No one had any knowledge of his personal assets or liabilities. In his documents, he appointed an old friend as his executor. We worked with him to create a Family Love Letter and Organizational Plan which utilized our online vault to organize all of his important documents. When he died, his friend was able to reference his organizational plan, which included The Family Love Letter, and see that he was to be buried next to a deceased wife who died 20 years before. He knew who his pallbearers were and what the memorial should read. After death, the letter gave the executor and our firm the basic information about his estate, including the ownership of several vacant tracts of land in other states -assets we might have had a difficult time locating without the list.
>> Click here to access our Family Organizational Plan.
Information in a Time of Confusion
We have designed this Family Love Letter & Organizational Plan to provide “information in a time of confusion” and help minimize the types of inadvertent mistakes, which often occur in these times of turmoil. While the document certainly will help save time, that is not its primary purpose. The primary purpose is to reduce the confusion and stress, which almost always accompanies the death or disability of a loved one, and to articulate your intentions and what matters most to you.
We recommend that you complete the documents, keep a copy with important records and consider providing a copy to family members and professional advisors. You may also wish to hold a family meeting where the advisors and your heirs can discuss both the documents and the intentions for your family using a family mission statement as the catalyst. A meeting like this can also allow your advisors to gain a greater understanding of the family dynamics which may impact the client’s plans.
*Some of the aforementioned information was provided by Enterprise Fund Distributors, Inc. in partnership with John J. Scroggin, J.D., LL.M. in an article titled “Information in a Time of Confusion”