It Depends

2016.FebIn this increasingly complex life we are living, more and more answers to mature people’s important questions tend to start with, “It depends…” Our year-old family trust directs the surviving spouse to make an appointment with an estate attorney, because which one among the available courses of action written into the trust is the best one will depend on the situation at that moment. Portability? Disclaimer? Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP) trust? Credit Shelter trust? It depends. In our case, that came after we struggled over the decision whether or not we needed a trust at all. In your case? …it depends. One thing is very clear: if you have set up a family trust more than a couple of years ago and you don’t see the word “portability” in any of the text or discussion notes, it’s time to make an appointment with an attorney for an update conversation. And if you don’t? It depends… Keep in mind that a relationship with a financial planner can prove invaluable, to help you clarify your needs, wants, and wishes to the point where you can decide with your attorney which legal choices your will and your trust …if you do one… should be available to beneficiaries and trustees who depend upon you.

Trusting

2015OctcDuring our Civil War public sentiment to add God to the design of our minted coins moved Salmon P. Chase to action. He invited Congress to choose the motto and pass the law in 1864 that allows In God We Trust to be used on minted coins…starting with the 1864 two-cent coin. The motto didn’t appear on paper money until 1957. That’s a lot of time and a lot of change (when did you see your last two-cent coin?), but the trust was well-placed and the Republic still stands. Speaking of trust, an alternative to accepting probate of one’s estate is to establish a trust that can own one’s worldly goods. Why do that? The statutory limit attorneys can charge to probate a million dollar estate in California is $23,000; executors can charge that much again. Establishing a trust skirts probate fees. A trust can endure throughout a lot of time and a lot of change; one can only hope successor trustees will do a good job as stewards of the estate. Establishing a trust instead of accepting probate does afford greater personal attention to heirs…sometimes for generations. Underneath it all, In God We Trust still works.

Passwords

passwordLiving in the digital age extends our planning chores, financial and otherwise. If you email friends, family, your business associates or the IRS, and pay bills, shop, tweet or link-in online, the chances are you operate at least 25 online password-protected accounts. What happens to all that traffic when you die?

If you have not considered this by now, it’s time to type in the question on your favorite search engine; scanning a few sites (AARP, Everplans, PEW Research, etc.) will motivate you, for sure.

  • If you do not have a list of your various passwords, build one somewhere and tell someone younger than you its location and someone else its password.
  • It wouldn’t hurt to look at your online persona just as you might look at what is in your attic or garage: can you start trimming it down?
  • If you keep gigabytes of online photos, which are important keepsakes for your heirs? What about the music, movies, and bookmarks?
  • If you have worked diligently to construct a paperless office, who’s next in line to keep it going?

What we leave in The Cloud assures our immortality until someone else can deal with it… for better or for worse.

What’s Left…

carving_toolThe tiny splinter of teak wood that covered the shank of our old cheese slicer blade disintegrated in less than a year of use. The blade was worth keeping so I carved a new handle, epoxied it onto the blade and gave it two coats of varnish. It should last a lifetime.

If it does, I wonder who would appreciate this handy utensil as much as I do. Or will it be tossed out with a truckload of other possessions… some of them acquired from parents and grandparents now long gone.

Those valued items constitute my “estate,” and someone must deal with them when I am gone. I can either name a person I trust to make a good job of it, or the State of California will see to the task for me.

It is probably wise to organize my “stuff” by giving some of it away now, throwing away the less important things, and labeling those items I hope certain people will enjoy keeping for a while beyond my lifetime.

In short, I need to make a will describing who is to get what and naming an executor who can supervise the job.

Have you done this?