‘You Kids Can Work It Out’

This is what a father wrote in a will that was brought to me. It illustrates another fundamental point about estate and retirement planning.

The father had decided to make his estate planning easy. “I’ll just buy CDs in my name and in the names of each of my children. That way, when I die, each of them will have a CD now in his or her sole name.” So, to carry out this idea, the father bought one CD with Child No. 1’s name on it in addition to his, a second in the name of Child No. 2 and the father all the way up to five children. The trouble was, he forgot how much he had purchased for each child, so the amounts were uneven. One child would get $100,000, another $10,000.

But Dad planned how to solve that problem. In his will, he wrote: “If any of the CDs I bought aren’t equal among my children, I ask them to straighten it out.” What do you think happened? Wrong, they did straighten it out. In one of those unusual family situations, the children who got more recognized their obligation to the others and entered into a family settlement. Sometimes it snows in April.

It’s important to remember that a will isn’t the only document that determines how assets are distributed. Life insurance beneficiary forms, retirement plan beneficiary designations and joint title on assets are all forms of testamentary dispositions; that is, they are all wills. Most people don’t know where these forms of wills are, sometimes can’t remember what they say and usually haven’t put them together so that they understand what their estate plan is. But it’s important to do this, because not every family (and, in fact, very few) is as close and understanding as the one described above.

Robert H. Louis
Saul Ewing
http://www.saul.com/

 

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