A s the end of the year approaches, we begin to consider a fresh start with new possibilities, opportunities and resolutions. However, to make room for the new, we need to clear out the old. This column is dedicated to tying up loose ends and clearing the slate so this Senior Advocate can begin fresh in 2013!
First, dear readers, thank you for reading me! Also, thank you for your kind comments when we meet, emails and good idea suggestions for future columns on the challenges faced by baby boomers and their parents. I appreciate your understanding that the column is 600 words or less and, although I attempt to provide a great deal of information on any given topic, most times the information is not all you will need to make decisions. Always consult your professional advisers for details.
Much of my work deals with coaching trustees through settling the estate of a parent or a spouse. Parents, a word of caution: If your children do not get along, please do not name them as co-executors or co-trustees in your estate plan. Thinking that "this will make them get along and work together" never, ever works. Most times it will lead to litigation, and the biggest beneficiaries of your estate will be the lawyers.
Also, dear readers, do your planning! What do Jimi Hendrix, Howard Hughes and Abraham Lincoln have in common? They all died without a will. Yes, despite being a lawyer himself, Lincoln did not have an estate plan in place when he was killed.
When you do the planning, make sure you state the names of your children and your spouse even if — especially if — you plan to disinherit them. If you do a will or trust and you fail to state the names of your wife and children and you write that you leave everything to a friend, it could be deemed that you "forgot" that you were married and had children and they could inherit anyway!
Remember that in California, heirs are entitled to a copy of your trust after your death, so if you plan to disinherit someone, do not write in your will that "I leave nothing to my daughter, April, because she is a drug addict." April could sue your estate for defamation of character.
Finally, as the year-end approaches, our mailboxes begin to fill with donation appeals from our favorite charities. Nonprofits need support more than ever, so give what you can and remember to complete your gift before Dec. 31 if you plan to take it as a tax deduction for 2012.
Enjoy the holidays, and cheers to a happy, healthy and well-planned 2013!
Liza Horvath has over 30 years' experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-5262.