Dateline: 18 February 2015
As a follow-up to My Previous Blog Post About Buying Some Cemetery Plots, I’d like to show you the headstone I’ve picked out. That’s it above.
On the subject of estate planning...
I was speaking to a friend recently who told me he got his financial advisor, his accountant, and his attorney all together in the same room to help figure out the details of his trust. Obviously, he has financial resources way beyond me (and he has a business much bigger than mine). He is also a lot younger than me, so I was doubly impressed that he was taking his estate planning so seriously. That’s a responsible man for you.
I told him I was in a quandry about what exactly to do as far as my own estate planning. He said that any plan, even an imperfect one, is better than no plan. That struck me as wise counsel.
Marlene and I have a will that is 34 years old. It was given to us as a wedding gift by a local attorney. Mr. Zwirn (now deceased) was a patient of the local doctor that Marlene worked for, back before we started having children (she was a medical office assistant). Mr. Zwirn and his wife took a liking to Marlene. It was a thoughtful gift.
We didn’t have any children until eight years after we were married, but the will took them into account. In the event that Marlene and I both died, my mother, the executor of our estate (which consisted of virtually nothing when we were married), would be the guardian of our children. That was an easy decision.
But when my mother died in 2003, our three boys were ages 15, 12 and 9. We were faced with a condndrum. Marlene’s mother was too elderly to care for three young boys. There was no one else we trusted enough, and felt would embrace the responsibility of being our child’s guardians.
So we did the only thing that made any sense to us— we prayed that God would keep at least one of us alive and well long enough for our boys to grow up to an age where they could legally be responsible for themselves. They are now 26, 23 and 20, so that worked out okay.
Statistically, I’ll be the first to go. With that in mind, I’d like to have an intelligent plan in place so Marlene doesn’t have to deal with any of this on her own after I’m gone. So I’ve decided that this is the year to educate myself about wills and trusts. Then I’ll go see an attorney.
When I want to educate myself about something, I look for a book on the subject. There are numerous such books. Which one is best? I did some looking on Amazon and settled on Beyond the Grave: The Right Way and the Wrong Way of Leaving Money to Your Children (and Others) by Jeffrey L. Condon.
I feel like I made the best choice. That book is an excellent introdcution to wills and trusts, and all the dynamics that enter into figuring out the best estate plan for your particular situation. The great thing about this book is that I can actually understand it. It’s not full of legaleze. It is a totally understandable discussion about what can be a very complicated subject.
What surprised (and pleased) me about this book is that it discusses all kinds of things that most people don’t know they need to know (or think they know but don’t really) when it comes to properly passing money and property to heirs (or to charities).
Mr. Condon provides some examples of mistakes he has made during his career as an estate planning attorney, and lots of mistakes that others have made. His emphasis throughout the book is on making fundamental estate decisions that keep your heirs from having hard feelings and broken relationships in the wake of your death. It turns out that this happens fairly often, or so it would appear.
Another important objective of the book is to ensure that an estate is protected such that a surviving spouse is not taken advantage of (by various situations and circumstances that often arise).
And Mr. Condon repeatedly places emphasis on seeing that financial resources get passed on to grandchildren. I like it that the author fully understands the importance of grandchildren. While children are important, and everyone loves their children, grandchildren are something altogether different in the heart of a grandparent.
I could go on about this book. I learned a lot from it. I’m sure I’ll be reading it again. But I am now reading another of Jeffrey Condon’s books,The Living Trust Advisor: Everything You Need to Know About Your Living Trust.