Archive for August, 2020

How to Discuss Estate Planning Without Unnecessary Drama

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

Littman Krooks Retirement PlanningFamilies can usually agree on the importance of creating a New York estate plan. However, as crucial as having a comprehensive estate plan is, recent studies show that only a small percentage of couples – most of them older – have current estate planning documents in place. When those who do not have an estate plan are asked why that is the case, the most common response is that they are avoiding having a difficult conversation with their loved ones. For parents, this concern is primarily centered around not wanting to cause problems between siblings.

The first step toward drama-free estate planning is understanding what causes drama between siblings in the first place. Of course, parents cannot necessarily resolve existing sibling rivalries or long-standing disagreements between siblings, which can make the process more challenging. In addition, the estate planning process itself can cause other types of issues to arise. For example, siblings who may not communicate that often may be skeptical of the others’ motives; they may disagree on who should pay for final arrangements, or how assets should be divided. Parents can take specific steps to make the estate planning process easier and reduce the chance of starting arguments between their children.

Create a Financial Overview

littman krooks elder lawWhile a comprehensive estate plan provides a detailed explanation of where a couple wants their assets to end up after they pass on, it does little to explain to children what those assets are and where they are located. A financial overview solves this problem by providing a list of all family assets and their location. For example, parents may have bank or investment accounts that at least one child is unaware of. If a child believes assets are only made known to certain siblings, it can start to build resentment, which may grow over time. By sharing a financial overview with all children, parents can reduce the perception of favoritism.

A proper financial overview should include the following information:

  • A list of all assets, liabilities and insurance policies, as well as how they are titled and any named beneficiaries.
  • Contact information for all financial, legal and insurance professionals.
  • Usernames and passwords for all financial and insurance websites.
  • A legacy letter outlining the non-financial assets, such as family heirlooms, that parents want to pass on to their children.

By creating a financial overview, parents can not only make the estate administration process easier for the executor but can also reduce the chances of starting family conflict. However, ongoing and open communication will also be essential.

Schedule a Family Meeting

After parents create an estate plan and a financial overview, the next step is to schedule a family meeting. Both parents, as well as all children who will be inheriting assets, should attend the meeting. While ideally, family members would meet in person, if children live across the country or a family is concerned about maintaining social distance, a family meeting could be held virtually.

Topics to cover at the family meeting include:

  • Discussing the basics of the estate plan;
  • Ensuring at least one person knows the location of the estate planning documents;
  • Explaining who will be the executor of the estate, as well as any other necessary parties, such as trustees;
  • Discussing the importance of transparency and openness during the estate administration process;
  • Outlining the parents’ plan for important non-financial items, such as family heirlooms; and
  • Discussing the importance of keeping things fair and using the process to bring the family together.

For many parents, the process of discussing their estate plans with their children is a topic to be avoided. However, these are crucial conversations that must take place to increase the likelihood of a smooth and drama-free estate administration process.

Speak With a New York Estate Planning Lawyer for Immediate Assistance

Creating an estate plan to address your family’s unique needs is crucial to securing your legacy and ensuring that future generations are cared for. At the New York estate planning law firm, Littman Krooks, LLP, we have over 30 years of experience helping families effectively plan for their financial future. We pride ourselves in providing an exceptional level of service to individuals of varying net worth, helping our clients ensure that future generations are well taken care of and reducing the tax burdens on their estates. To learn more about how our dedicated team of attorneys can assist your family with its unique needs, call 914-684-1200 to schedule a no-obligation consultation today.


The Sandwich Generation and the Burden of Too Much Stuff

Sunday, August 2nd, 2020

Middle-aged people find themselves taking care of both their parents and their children, along with personal commitments like career and home. It seems like there is no end to the work that must be done and the roles that must be filled. Frequently, members of the sandwich generation end up as the caretaker of everyone in their family.

Maybe you feel a sentimental attachment to items that belonged to your parents or are from your childhood home. Maybe you hope that future generations will enjoy your collections. Maybe you suspect that your children will eventually need something that you have tucked away. However you justify it, being a multi-generational caregiver and the family “keeper” can come at an enormous personal cost.

Having a home filled up with things that you do not use and that do not suit your tastes clutters not only your personal space but also your head space. When you focus so much of your attention and energy on taking care of the needs of your loved ones, there is little left over for feeling constant irritation. Clearing your house and your mind can be an extremely freeing task.

Getting rid of this accumulation of things can be a surprisingly difficult task. Learning about the psychology of attachment can help you say goodbye to the clutter for good.

There are three main attachment patterns that influence our feelings toward objects.

Sentimental Attachment — the item represents something else, a person or memory most often. Are you keeping something simply because your mother loved it even though you do not use or like it? Do you just feel guilty about getting rid of it?

Intrinsic Attachment—the item could be used someday and therefore has value. Are you saving things for projects that you know you will never actually get to?

Aesthetic Attachment—the item appeals to you for some reason and owning it triggers your brain’s pleasure and reward reactions. Do you have much more of something than is reasonable just because you like it?

Exploring exactly what compels you to keep an object can help you come to terms with getting rid of it. When it is time to tackle the clutter, there are options for getting rid of things. You might donate usable items and feel good knowing that they will help someone else. You could sell things and use the profit to buy yourself something you want. You can gift sentimental items to family members who will love them, just be mindful of not doing this simply to be rid of something. Generally, younger generations tend to take a more minimalistic approach to belongings and might appreciate a small token more than a large collection of something.  Recycle and discard when appropriate.

In addition to bettering your own mental health, which is essential, another very important benefit of minimizing accumulated items is that you will not end up putting your own kids and other loved ones in the same situation that you are in now. They eventually will have to figure out what to do with your belongings too, it is best not to pass the stress of too much stuff to them along with all of your things.

To learn more about how we can help, call 212-490-2020 or 914-684-2100.