So often we imagine how things will be after death. We assume that there will be mourning, a full funeral, and no drama regarding our possessions. Aunt Rose had everything thought out. My parents’ house was full of her furniture, and now my wife and I have much of it in our home. It never occurred to me that she had such specific wishes for her belongings, but reading her Trust, and seeing her thoughtfulness towards me at such a young age, made me feel closer to her.
When writing your own Will and Trust, it is important to think about how it will play out in real life. A parent needs to think how children will be affected by a poorly thought our Will or Trust.
Before you set up your Trust, you and your lawyer should discuss what the purpose of the Trust is and the personality of the children that you are giving an inheritance to. Here is a side by side of two different styles of distributions that I have seen.
The distribution on the left (Table 1) does two things. First, it will most likely result in the sale of all of the property because the only way to distribute things equally is to liquidate everything. Very often the vague Will leads to drama and arguments among the beneficiaries. Second, it takes away your opportunity to let your children and grandchildren know that you thought about them and what they might find sentimental.
The distribution on the right (Table 2) is the opposite. Here the distributions are thought out, but there is a pitfall. Unlike in the previous distribution, if any of the items are sold or lost prior to the distribution, that’s it. That person receives significantly less because the item is gone. There are no replacements. It is clear that the thought was there, but the opportunity to pass on an heirloom or a meaningful item is lost. In some cases this can cause distress or jealousy, but in some cases (like with my Aunt Rose) it is the thought that counts.
A well thought out distribution will look something like this:
- I leave the following people the following items:
To my third husband:
Presidential Coin Collection
To my daughters in equal shares:
The Cabin in the Woods
The Rest of my Coin Collection
- I leave the following Cash Gifts to the following People:
My third husband - $75,000
My older daughter - $50,000
My five siblings - $20,000 – to be split evenly
My only grandson - $50,000 – to be held in a Trust
This distribution combines the best of both. It shows that the beneficiaries were thought about during the writing of the Trust, and that there is a money security if the items go missing before distribution. There is no guarantee that there will be no family drama when property is distributed, but a well written Will or Trust can help diffuse negative family interactions.
Oh, and Aunt Rose, thanks for thinking of me.