Death and taxes are inevitable, right? If you can discuss taxes with your spouse, you should be able to discuss death. Yet a lot of couples skirt around this discussion for as long as they can, and usually it results in quite the legal mess later. With the holidays coming up, you might be more inclined to ignore this discussion, but you should do the opposite. There are plenty of good reasons to sit down and have a good chat about estate planning during the holiday season.
Everyone’s Home and Visiting
How often do you, your spouse, and your adult children all sit in the same room together for any length of time anymore? Probably once a year, twice a year if you’re lucky. Really close families might see each other more often, but once all of your “little birds” have flown “the nest,” it becomes harder and harder to get everyone together again.
The holidays encourage everyone to come together once more. Christmas, Hannukah, Thanksgiving, etc., are focused on family. There’s no better time than this season to carve out an hour or two to discuss estate planning with your heirs and your spouse.
Your Spouse Is So Happy He/She Could Talk About Anything
It’s a difficult topic to breach, to be sure, but when your spouse is at his or her happiest, it’s likely you could talk about almost anything. The holidays are one of the happiest times of the year. It means your spouse is likely to be very content and willing to talk about wills, probate, trusts, and anything else that doesn’t quite seem like a topic the rest of the time.
Those Who Will Be in Charge of Executing Your Estate Need to Be Present
If your spouse is still stubbornly refusing to discuss the division of your wealth and property, he or she needs to know that trust administration and executors of your will have to be present to agree to and sign documents. Since everyone comes home for the holidays, you can show your spouse how the timing for this is right. Your heirs can sign the documents that need signatures, and then get back to the festivities.
You will need to select one executor who will represent you and your wishes in probate court. This is the heir you most trust to carry out your will and deal with any creditors that come to collect when you pass away. Trust administration deals with the person or persons most willing to keep and monitor trusts for heirs that are not yet old enough to claim their inheritance. Choose these individuals carefully to avoid future litigation issues.
You Can Begin the Conversation a Month Ahead
If you are concerned about how your spouse will react to having a discussion about your estate and estate planning efforts, start a month in advance to the holiday. Start in small ways, such as simple questions about who should inherit what. Bring related subjects up naturally in conversation. At some point your spouse will want to know why you are asking all of these post-death questions, and then you can open up the conversation to estate planning.
If you are still met with some resistance, ask your spouse what he or she would want from your estate. When a spouse stops to consider how his or her needs must be met after the loss of a loved one, the spouse begins to acquiesce to the much-needed conversation.
You Can Gift Living Trusts
A living trust is a portion of your estate given to an heir while you are still alive. The best thing about it is that it removes that portion from an inheritance tax your heir would have to pay after you pass away. A living trust is also an incredible holiday gift, as it allows your heirs and your spouse to enjoy the trust and lets you see how happy the inheritance makes them.
Another positive about living trusts is that there is less available after you pass away for creditors to attempt to take. There’s also less for heirs to argue over and possibly sue each other for. Since they were already given their due while you were alive in the form of a living trust, they can’t pursue more after you are gone. It’s the perfect gift for everyone this holiday season.
If You Live in California, Contact the Pacella Law Group
If you live in California, contact the Pacella Group to discuss estate planning options. Our lawyers can provide even more helpful tips on how to breach the subject with your spouse and your heirs this holiday season.