Here are a couple of rules-of-thumb regarding estate planning:
- It doesn’t exist if it’s not in writing.
- It is especially important to put a written plan in place in a second marriage where children are involved.
Verbal understandings among family members, especially when a second marriage between one or two parents takes place, tend to quickly turn into a family feud once death occurs.
Now, I like hearing gossip about the rich and famous as much as the next person. Upon seeing a sensational headline at the grocer’s checkout counter, I’ve even moved to the longer line so that I would have time to complete the article before having to put the publication back on the rack. The latest one I’ve seen tells about Whitney Houston, her father’s marriage late in life to his “young” housekeeper, and the subsequent lawsuit that took place when Whitney’s father died. You can read all about it [Broke or Not, Whitney Houston Now Understands Value of Estate Planning].
Whitney’s story perfectly illustrates both rules-of-thumb listed. Sensational? You bet. What you want to see happen to your clients? Not a chance.
Make sure this doesn’t happen to your clients. As their financial advisor, ask them about their estate plans. Help them see that verbal understandings and the “he said, she said” arguments that can ensue after death are insufficient when it comes to estate planning. A written estate plan will make for much less interesting reading, but at least we won’t be reading about it at the checkout counter.
To gain a better insight into estate planning and share knowledgeable perspectives with your clients enroll in our estate planning course, Advising the Affluent Client: Estate Planning, check it out!