I don’t know about you, but my family gives some very interesting gifts. I have crafty family members … I am not very crafty … but I can be when called upon. So, I am always surprised by the ideas for gifts. At my mom’s house we do this very cool thing for Christmas. We play a game reading a book. I often have the honor of reading for the group. We sit in a big circle and everyone is given a small gift, which has often been enhanced by my mom. For example, it could be a can of nuts with white socks turning it into a snow man. Then each time a certain word is said we pass the gifts around the circle. At the end of the story, you keep the gift you have in your hands. Now, some members of my family like my husband and brother, when they see a gift they want to keep they don’t move it on to the next person. It is a big joke and at the end of the game any of us would trade our gift to someone who wants it more than us.
So that brings me to my first point, take a moment when you are giving out your gifts in your estate to think about will this person like what I am giving them. I suggest that you talk to the other family members. We can put in your estate plan a method of your heirs trading their gifts with other heirs. We can have a family meeting or even meetings to see what makes sense for your family.
The second point is that we have a hundred different ways to skin the cat. There is not just one way to give your family some control or input in what they will receive. However, I want to be clear, I always tell my clients that the point of estate planning is to that you have control of your property. So that you can give the property when you want and the way you want.
The third point is that it is often the little things that family members fight over. A friend told me about a very bad divorce that she witnessed at the courthouse. The couple was over 60 years old and had been married a very long time. My friend told me that she was not sure that the couple would not come to blows based on their statements and demeanor at court. They were hotly contesting the property division. One item was holding up the whole process. What was that item? Nose hair clippers!!! Neither of them wanted to give in or give up. It sounds crazy, but most of the court battles in estate are just like that … over something that could be replaced if only one really thought about it.
My last point is that estate planning is a gift your give your family. It is a wonderful way to ensure that your family gets the benefits from your hard work. It should also give you peace of mind to know that your family is taken care of when you cannot be there.