Planning for the InevitableWe all talk about it at one time or another; but statistics say that 85% of us will die without a succession plan and more importantly will die without a legal Will. Most of us have no idea what that does to our family and loved ones. Ya! we don't have to worry about it because we are the ones that are dead, but OMG, the stress and hardship that we cause the very people who we love the most is of unimaginable proportions.
Even if there is very little money or assets involved, you could still be causing a great deal of unnecessary grief for the people who are closest to you.
Not only do we hit them with this nightmare at the worst possible time (upon our death) but we give them NO CHOICE but to deal with it. Sorry about the shouting but lately I have heard all the excuses and believe me I have given all of the excuses myself, but I have woken up and am working diligently to do something about it. So that I am not the one responsible for putting my daughter and brothers and sisters through a nightmare that could drag on for years.
What is succession planning?
It can be as simple as having a "Legal Will" in place. I say legal because having a piece of paper with your wishes on it does not constitute a "Legal Will".
It would be better if it meant having a funeral planned in detail and possibly paid for, a distribution plan in place for your executor, a documents location library in the hands of an accessible person and a life insurance plan in place as a contingency fund for expenses.
A business plan in place if you are self employed, copies of all your internet access codes, bank account numbers in a safe and accessible location in duplicate with at least one if not two responsible people having legal access to them. Power of attorney on specific bank accounts, the list can go on and on depending on your life position. The operative word here is "The Plan".
I have been going through this process lately and I gotta tell ya, it is a rather complex one, I don't have a lot of children, I just have one and I don't have a spouse to provide for after my passing, but what I do have is assets. My home, my business, my car, my savings (Oh sorry I forgot, the government took the savings for taxes).
So this is what I have done for my first steps.
Talk to a Funeral Director - Right Now!Your funeral director may be the best place to start as they can help you work backwards.
In this I mean that they will be able to; not only help you arrange your own funeral to suit your needs but they can send you to the professionals that you need to see to fill the holes that need to be filed. Because funeral directors are accustom to dealing with the messes after the fact, there is very little they have not already seen, so they can be your best overall consult.
If you want your funeral to be the funeral you want don't rely on telling someone. Arrange your own, you have the option of paying for it now or paying for it later. There are plans out there that offer payment schedules of 3 years, 5 years or even 10 or 20 years if you choose.
Believe m; it can be a lot less expensive than you think, especially if the decisions are being made when the person making them is not under duress and has had the time to think and research what they truly want. I am dealing with Sandy Poelvoorde at Boyd's Funeral Services and she has been fantastic, and get this, to be cremated it is only going to cost my estate $2459.16 in total. Not bad....
I have stipulated no funeral but a party and I have even named the people who will be arranging the party. You can get as detailed as you want.
Get a Will
Wills do not have to be complicated but they do have to be legal and that is the operative word, I am not saying this because your will may be contested, although there is always that possibility. I am saying this because if you do not have a proper will, the government will either end up with your assets or it will take years and years for your loved ones to gain access to them.
I say again; that means that a piece of paper with your wishes on it is not good enough, I cannot even begin to suggest what the legalities of a proper will are; but I highly recommend that you find out, talk to a Lawyer, or a Notary, go to a seminar, speak to a Financial Planner, learn.
Each circumstance is a little different and each person is going to require a different kind of structure depending on their circumstance, some may be very complicated some may be very simple.
I do have a will in place but I am learning that it is woefully inadequate for my present circumstance. So I am asking as many questions as I can of as many professionals as I can. It is my intention to learn as much as I can about my circumstance, re: talking to my accountant for my business, going to seminars, searching on line, talking to friends in similar circumstances, then I will take my outline and my questions to legal counsel and get them to do the last part. In order to save some money it is best to be prepared.
Friend #14 had a self employed husband, he died on the job and his company was left with a huge accounts receivable, which his widow was entitled to. Because he did not plan, his grieving widow; who by the way also had a very young child at the time, was left with the responsibility of closing the company and chasing dozens of accounts to pay the incoming bills. She was at it for at least 4 years of struggle, anger and constant challenges that I know of and she ended up being pretty angry at the husband that she had adored for many years for placing her in that position.
Choose an ExecutorI would tread with extreme caution with this one. It is a nice gesture to have someone in your family named as your executor, but this is the one position that could literally destroy family relationships permanently. The responsibilities of an executor are huge and irrefutable, there are some serious accountability concerns and the first time your executor signs a document on your behalf they are legally committed to the process.
Not to say they cannot ever back out of the process, but to do tha, is a lengthy, expensive course of action, chances are they will not be successful because it is up to a judge. And anytime an executor is changed during the course of the process it delays the execution of the will and the distribution of the assets, this could take years to rectify.
Friend #27, parents died, three sisters, she was the youngest and lived in close proximity to the parents so she was named as the executor. After all was said and done the three sisters who had always been close, broke down their relationships for at least 5 years over whether to keep or discard some old camping equipment. This goes to show you that emotions run high when our loved ones pass, especially when they are the glue that holds the family together to begin with. It took a very long time for the girls to actually start speaking to each other again.
If you own a business set a plan for your replacementLegally identify those with knowledge of your business to assume responsibility for your company, be it a person who can step into your role from outside your company or someone who can be moved into a key position should you not be there.
Ensure that they are given the legal right and responsibilities to run the company, even if this means power of attorney over bank accounts should you pass unexpectedly.
Normally in the case of a sole proprietorship, if the person who is the signatory on all the accounts passes, the bank accounts are frozen, until such time that the executor (if there is one) can gain access.
In my instance my internet accounts are of primary importance. I have so many access codes and own so much intellectual property it could be a extremely convoluted mousetrap should I pass without a plan, www.GoCampbellRiver.com freezes and I leave my clients, my viewership and my family in a state of shock. Good thing I am looking after that.
A complex and seemingly innocuous subject which raises some interesting questions. We tend not to think about the difference between insurance policies, but I have recently learned there is a huge difference.
Mortgage insurance (for the same gain) can be double the cost of life insurance. With mortgage insurance the bank receives the money to pay out the mortgage, with beneficiaries not having any access. With life insurance your beneficiary receives the money, to do what they will, this is a much better scenario as this could release funds to complete the execution of the will and pay other expenses, during the probate trials.
WHERE DO I START? A-B-C-DThe questions I have raised here are just the tip of the iceberg when learning about succession planning, so here is what I suggest you do, based on my own journey:
#1. Talk to a Funeral Director; don't worry, they are not as cryptic as they appear from television, as a matter of fact you may end up with someone who is cute and bubbly. This is where you are going to begin to find where your loose ends are and be able to suggest where you can go to tie up those loose ends.
#2. Talk to a Financial Planner; they will give you the skinny on the paperwork you need to bring to the meeting, a financial planner can help you arrange your assets in a way that could save time and money when it comes to transferring those assets to your estate.
#3. Talk to an Accountant; not a bookkeeper, there are all kinds of tax laws that apply to all kinds of scenarios from war veterans to property held outside of the country and you can take advantage of setting up your accounts before you pass and save your executor a lot of pain and suffering and the estate a lot of money if you preplan.
#4. Talk to a Lawyer or a Notary; have your questions well formulated before you go and all your paperwork organized, this will save you money. This is why it is a good idea to talk to the other professionals first, that way you have your p's and q's in order. A lawyer is not a tax man and not a financial planner, and a Notary cannot get involved in legal issues. A Lawyer usually only knows about your legal issues after the fact and even then they will consult with other professionals that are experts in the field of question. So if you cover these bases first, situations may be rectified before they become a problem.
What a Lawyer or a Notary can do is help you set up your Will specifically to meet your needs and if you have a good understanding of where you are with everything else, it is going to make the job just that much easier, faster and less expensive.
Talk is cheap, and when you hear the answers to your questions and the options for moving forward you will be surprised at just how much of a challenge you will be saving your family or friends in the end run.
They Will definitely thank you for it, hey that was a paradox.
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