Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

Other Considerations – Funeral Arrangements

Once you have taken the steps to have your estate planning documents done, there are a few other “loose ends” that need to be addressed.

One of these is Funeral Arrangements.  For many people, this is a difficult topic to discuss.  It is, however, an important issue to address and an important discussion to have with your family.

The time surrounding the death of a loved one is a difficult and confusing time.  It is stressful and sorrowful.  Your loved ones will have to make difficult and costly decisions at a time when they are dealing with this stress and sorrow.

It is possible that your loved ones will spend more than you would have thought prudent on funeral arrangements because of guilt or not wanting to seem “cheap”.

The cost of the funeral will be due before the family has had an opportunity to access your assets so the cost may be out of pocket for them.

You may have specific preferences concerning your funeral and burial or cremation that will not be honored because you did not communicate these wishes to the family.

An alternative is to pre-plan and pre-pay for your funeral arrangements.  This will provide you and your family peace of mind.  The funeral arrangements will be the type and style that you prefer.  It will not be a financial or emotional burden for your family members.

Take the time to investigate pre-planning and pre-paying for your funeral with your local funeral home.  Then tell your family what you have planned and what you have paid for.

When you Need a Trust – Second Marriage

Revocable Trusts provide a host of benefits to the beneficiaries of a deceased loved one.  Probate is avoided and administration is less cumbersome.  These are nice benefits of a revocable trust; however, some clients feel that these benefits do not outweigh the cost of setting up an estate plan with a revocable trust.

A circumstance that make a revocable trust really needed is when the individuals have been previously married.

In a first marriage situation, a couple will ordinarily provide first for one another.  It is only when the survivor passes that subsequent distributions are made to beneficiaries.  In a subsequent marriage, the parties may want to make some provision for one another, however, they want to control the ultimate distribution of their portion of the estate so that it flows to their children or siblings.

If the couple only has Wills, there is no ability to put strings or conditions on money left to the spouse.  Whatever he or she receives through the probate process will be absolutely available to the survivor to do with as he or she pleases.  In other words, if the estate is left to the survivor, there is no guarantee that he or she will leave any of the remaining estate to the children or family of the first to die.

A revocable trust enables the grantor to put strings on money given to the spouse.  The money remains in trust and is available for the use of the survivor; however, the money left at his or her death will flow to the children of the first to die.

When you Need a Trust – Real Property in Multiple States

Revocable Trusts provide a host of benefits to the beneficiaries of a deceased loved one.  Probate is avoided and administration is less cumbersome.  These are nice benefits of a revocable trust; however, some clients feel that these benefits do not outweigh the cost of setting up an estate plan with a revocable trust.

One circumstance that make a revocable trust really needed is having real property in more than one state.

If you have real property in one state, it will be included in your Probate estate.  When your Personal Representative is granted authority to act on behalf of the estate, he or she will be able to transfer or sell the property in accordance with your wishes.

If you have real property in more than one state, the process becomes far more difficult and more costly.  A probate court order from one state is not effective in another.  Therefore, your Personal Representative in Michigan, will not have the legal authority in Arizona or Florida to sell or transfer your property.  It will be necessary to open a probate proceeding in every state in which you own real property.

A revocable trust, into which all of the real property has been transferred will enable your successor trustee to transfer or sell all of your properties in accordance with your wishes without the need to go to court.

Leaving a Roadmap to Assets

You have a Will or a Trust.  You are finished with your estate planning, right?  Not quite.

You know what you own, but will your Personal Representative or Trustee?

Make a listing of your assets – better yet – make copies of documents and include these with your estate planning documents so that your Personal Representative or Trustee will have a clear outline of exactly what you own.

Real Estate: How many parcels and where are they located?  Make a copy of the deed(s) and a property tax statement for each.

IRA’s, 401 K’s, Annuities: Prepare a listing of all of your tax deferred assets together with the beneficiary for each.  Make a copy of your recent quarterly statement for each so that your Personal Representative or Trustee has the name of the financial institution and the account number.

Life Insurance: Get the policies together.  If you don’t know where they are, someone else won’t either.  List the policies with the name of the company, the value and the beneficiary.

Cash Assets: Make a listing of the accounts.  Make a copy of your recent quarterly statement for each account showing the name of the financial institution or bank and the approximate value.  If you have listed a beneficiary on the account or have a transfer on death (TOD) provision, note that as well.

Vehicles, Boats and Trailers: Make a listing of these items together with their identification numbers, physical location and value.  Make copies of the titles for each.

Valuable Personal Property: Precious metals (gold or silver bullion or coins), stamp collections, wine collections, artwork, antiques, should all be listed with identifying information, the physical location of the item and the approximate value.  Best is to take a photograph of each item and place the photographs with the listing.

This roadmap will be invaluable for your Personal Representative or Trustee.  The death of a loved one is a stressful time.  It will ease the burden if your estate is organized.