I have had a lot of conversations recently centered around communication and financial information. Each had its own twist, the context rarely being the same. But, the two recurring themes were: (1) lack of organization and communication about your financial situations can cause a lot of frustration and expense if you are disabled or pass away, and (2) the process of creating and properly funding a living trust can help keep #1 from happening. I know it is not necessarily fun or exciting to talk about. Be that as it may, it can make a HUGE difference.
Here is one of the “bad” examples. The person had a will-based estate plan that was put in place some time ago. It will not shock you to know that a lot changed over the years. In addition to not keeping the estate plan updated, the person never shared anything about the person’s financial situation (what they had, where it was, etc.). I am now working with their family to try and sort everything out. It is proving quite difficult. Each financial institution seems to have different requirements for finding out information about accounts, and quite honestly, the family does not even know where to look. It has led to a lot of frustration on their end and much higher legal fees as we help walk them through it and get the information they need.
On the flip side are a couple of clients who passed away in 2014. Both had a trust-based plan that was fully funded. If you are curious about what I mean by “fully funded”, you can read a blog post of mine on the topic by clicking here. Because I work with clients to make sure their trust is fully funded, including putting together a spreadsheet of their assets, there is a list of the “what” and “where”. I also tend to find that by talking through the financial side of things with clients, they seem to be more willing to talk about it with those they have trusted with handling their financial affairs during their incapacity or after their passing. In both of these cases, those people who were called upon to act as successor Trustees were able to quickly get a handle of the financial side of things which, in turn, led to a quick, smooth, and less costly transition.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there are always exceptions to these examples. Having a will-based plan does not mean that administering your estate will be a frustrating and costly experience. And likewise, just having a trust does not guarantee that everything will be smooth sailing. But, I have generally found the exceptions to be few and far between. Whether a will-based plan or a trust-based plan, the important part is to make sure to keep track of your financial affairs and communicate with those you choose to help with your estate. A well-qualified financial advisor can be a big help with this process too, so do not overlook them.
As you know, I welcome questions, comments, and stories about the topic, so please let me know if you have any.