I know from experience watching a friend who suddenly found out the executor of an estate could impose his personal religious views on the heirs, including my friend, who ended up with nothing from his grandmother's estate. Grandma hadn't spelled out her promises to her grandson that he could have her collection of Depression glass, or her antique sewing machine no one else wanted. All those things were sold and given to charity because my friend --a licensed minister of a non-Christian faith-- refused to "return to the Pentecostal faith" of his childhood. Yes, the grandmother's will said the executor could "distribute her money and goods as he saw fit."
In a similar manner, I know as a wife that my DH wants to be cremated and his ashes scattered in the sea he loved. My mother in law will be appalled at this, I think. She feels it important to have a burial in a grave so the living may mourn, so unless I have written instructions, there might be a battle royale over my DH's corpse. I will be devastated enough without that ordeal, thank you.
Come to think of it, I'd better update my version of #9 ASAP. If I pass first, DH wouldn't be able to find the current bills, much less know how to pay them online. Oh, dear.
Posted: 17 Jun 2009 05:00 AM PDT
This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the advisor for The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks.
We interrupt this regularly cheerful website to bring you some unpleasant news: You're not going to live forever. And, just to pile on the unpleasantness, you might become incapacitated before you join that Great Tax Shelter in the Sky.
I know, this isn't fun to think about. But what's even worse is not thinking about it at all, which could leave your family trying to sort through all your affairs at a time of turmoil and grief.
We're talking about estate planning, something many think is just for "rich" people — but it's not. Everyone should take the following 10 steps to get their legal ducks in a row.
The Bottom Line
As fee-only financial planner Sheryl Garrett (of the Garrett Planning Network) told me during an interview:
How do you get all this done? Seek out the help of a qualified, experienced estate-planning attorney in your area. Yes, you can take care of some of this by putting your notarized John Hancock on forms downloaded from the Internet. But laws vary from state to state, and recommendations vary from person to person. So spend the extra money to get the professional help. And send this article to all your relatives; making sure they have a solid estate plan will save you grief and money down the road.
J.D.'s note: I was just talking with our house painter about this on Monday. He's settling his mother's estate, and he says it's a nightmare — one filled with lawyers and $100,000 in fees. He told me, "Get a will. Learn from my family: Get a will." Photo by Seize the Photo.
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