Human Aspects of A Last Will and Testament

I am a Money Magnet! We are Money Magnets!

Have you prepared your last will and testament yet? You might think it's still early to be doing such but for the benefit of those that you will be leaving behind,  it might be best to make one now.  According to this article from BDO Private Bank's Wealth Management Magazine,  "ultimately, a will must preserve harmony among those left behind."  It also encourages giving while you're still alive so that children and heirs don't have to carry the burden of paying the accompanying costs that come with inheritances.  We are definitely for this.  It encapsulates what we learned recently about giving while it's still yours to give.  The article below highlights some of the facts that we need to consider when we write our last will and testament.

Will Power
by: Judith Juntilla

Ultimately, a will must preserve harmony among those left behind.

The contentious nature of will writing is evinced by the popularity of the best-selling inheritance book in American publishing history, Beyond the Grave.  Authors Gerald and Jeffery Condon attribute its enduring appeal to the fact that while there are many books that focus on the technical side of inheritance, their book deals with the human aspect of the issue.

"In every literate society," write the authors, "there is this saying about inheriting wealth: If you really want to know a person's true character, share an inheritance with that person."

Tying up loose ends after a death brings out many issues in a family, some that were thought to be long forgotten (such as who got to go to the more expensive school) or some long repressed (such as unspoken family rivalries).  Whatever the nature of these conflicts, a well-crafted, and well-planned will can help ensure that wishes are carried out and enforced even beyond the grave.

However, a well-crafted will is no safeguard against trouble.  "The heirs will always find something wrong," said Atty. Reynaldo Geronimo, who specializes in trust and writes a newspaper column on the subject.

He finds that trouble with wills often occur in probating, or proving in court the formal validity of the will.  As such, he is an advocate of while-you're-still-alive probates and offers trusts as the ultimate solution.

Simply put, a trust is a set of instructions which say that when you die, your money or property will not go outright to the heirs, but instead will go to a trustee who will manage and protect the inheritance for the benefit of the heirs.

Needless to say, the help of a lawyer is essential to writing a will because many things can go wrong if a will is not properly handled.

Moreover, in an increasingly globalized and digital world, wealth is no longer measured only in terms of land; it is now a more complicated matter where it is necessary to seek the help of other experts.  In this case, a private bank's services could add value to a will by performing several tasks.  It can help by being part of the estate planning process and providing advice on matters like taxes, accounting, finance and investment, risk management and asset protection, and asset management.

"The Private Bank could act as executor of a last will.  Or, if the will is created with trust provisions, it could act as trustee," said BDO Private Bank.

The problem of inheritance is not solved by having a lot to bequeath.  On top of summoning enough courage to not leave everything to the children and balancing it with the fear of creating trust-fund babies, there is the ugly matter of washing the family's dirt linen in public.  Wills become public in the process of probating them, and prominent persons seldom wish to publicize private details about the family.

But having overcome this, why do people who can obviously afford the best legal advice still end up in very public squabbles over inheritance?

"Unfortunately, my experience is, the richer a guy is, the more they feel that they have to control things.  When people put their trust in money, it's money that create mistrust," said Atty. Geronimo.

He always advises people to give while they are still alive.  However, this advice is not always heeded.  "It makes some parents nervous," he said.  Questions like, 'What will I live on?, and 'Will they turn against me?' hang heavy in such deliberations, and too often, wealthy parents choose to keep control of the wealth until their death.  The children and heirs ultimately carry the burden of paying the accompanying costs that come with inheritances.

Harmony within the family, then, becomes the Holy Grail of any estate planning endeavor.

A close and trusting relationship with the executors or trustees cannot be underestimated, and neither can other nontechnical assistance.  "Proper communication, openness, and focusing and addressing the needs of the client and his family are essential in helping people in this difficult process," said BDO Private Bank.  As such a private bank can help by going beyond the technical and going personal.

Similarly, Atty. Geronimo offers that the relationship with the lawyer much be one of trust.  "You are not going to be the lawyer unless you are close to the testator.  You probably will outlive the testator so you try to be as friendly with all the children.  At the end of the day, you have to convince them that this is what the parent wanted," he said.

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