Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Recently one of my estate planning colleagues, addressed the importance of "Final Instructions".  This type of information is similar to an instruction manual that steps us through arrangements that we should address in advance of the inevitability of our passing.  We rarely get an instruction manual at birth, but we surely can leave one before our departure from life.  My thanks for this post goes to Ellen Gay Moser who practices estate planning in the state of Illinois.

Your “instruction manual” for your children or survivors should begin with the basics.  First, do you have a Trust and Will?  If so, have you written instructions for your kids (survivors) to follow at your death or disability? 

In regards to your estate, are you concerned about probate and taxes? If so, you have done a good job to provide for your heirs and save unnecessary costs, fees, and taxes. If not, you  may be leaving your kids  with no clues as to what to do and no instructions  for them to follow.  It's a well known habit that when all else fails, we read the instructions. But if we are left with no clues or instructions, what do we do? We waste a lot of time and money that tends to diminish your estate.

If you have a Trust,  then you  likely already have an instruction manual  stating your goals as to who gets what and when they get it. The duties of your Successor Trustee are set forth in your  Trust document and it is his/her fiduciary responsibility to abide by the law and the Trust. The Trustee must collect and manage assets, pay your debts and taxes and seek advice of counsel. Your goals to protect your loved ones can be carried out, if you state your goals loud and clear in your Trust.

Your “Final Instructions” may include specific distributions of special stuff /memorabilia/heirlooms/investments/etc  to go to certain people. Instructions will  often  include tax planning for married couples, disability planning when you become unable to manage your financial affairs prior to death, and who you want to be in charge of your property when you die or are disabled. Provisions may be made in your trust for protecting your children from predators and special instructions will protect your disabled children.

Do you have a plan to protect your children in the event your surviving spouse remarries? Do you care if a child is disinherited? Do you want to protect a spendthrift? If you plan your Will and Trust with lots of “baby sitter” instructions, your children may be protected for life, and your grandchildren too.    At the minimum,  Final Instructions are important to avoid the consequences of doing nothing.  I encourage you to take the time now to meet with an estate planning attorney such as myself to create or review your Final instructions. 

Give me a call, send me an email, or leave a comment on this posting, so I can respond in a helpful manner with information or to set a meeting discuss your  manual for “Final Instructions.”

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