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What Sort of Mess Will You Leave?

oklahoma-tornado-damage.jpgTo most people, "estate planning" generally means hiring an attorney to prepare a Last Will and Testament, Living Trust, Durable Power of Attorney or other written legal document. To some it means making sure they have enough invested on which to live until death. To others, it means choosing beneficiaries for assets and personal items such as jewelry and family heirlooms. Although all of these are part of estate planning, they only touch the surface. The title of this post may seem a bit shocking or rude. The photo is quite tragic. However, they are meant to highlight what is often the most difficult parts of administering an estate after a death -- what to do with YOU and what to do with YOUR STUFF. The posts that will follow are statements of information gleaned from years of experience in preparing legal documents and administering estates. They are designed to assist you in putting your loved ones and beneficiaries in a better position to take care of you and your assets at your death or if you become incapacitated. Do you remember doing fire drills in school? We would be sitting at our desks and an alarm would ring. We were then told to get up and leave the room "in an orderly fashion" and reassemble as a group in the playground outside. Perhaps you even do these sorts of drills at work. Most larger offices have requirements to do them. Here in Oklahoma, we also conduct tornado drills. Clearly, we do not go outside for them! Why do we have these drills? After experiencing one of them the first time, why must we do them again? The reason is simple: It is so you will know what to do when a real fire or tornado occurs. Your estate planning should involve a "fire drill." Your loved ones and personal representatives need to know what to do when you die or if you become incapacitated and, until you walk them through that process, they may not be prepared to handle it. The photo above shows part of the unbelievable tragedy that was the tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma in 2013. However, the photo is used as a metaphor for the administration of your estate at death. The vision created by this photo is often the overwhelming task your family and friends are left with when you die. What does your family or other personal representatives do with all of your stuff? Where do they put it? How do they sell it or distribute it? What is valuable? What can be thrown away? Who needs to be involved in these processes? Stand by for more details....

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