When it comes to settling an estate, the word “tension” seems to appear frequently. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of tension is as follows:
- Inner striving, unrest, or imbalance often with physiological indication of emotion.
- A state of latent hostility or opposition between individuals or groups.
- A balance maintained in an artistic work between opposing forces or elements.
- The act or action of stretching or the condition or degree of being stretched to stiffness or tautness.
- Either of two balancing forces causing or tending to cause extension.
- The stress resulting from the elongation of an elastic body.
You can see why this word appears so often. Many of these definitions apply to settling the affairs of an estate, including when poor planning or communication draw out the process for everyone involved. It doesn’t have to be that way if you counsel your clients and their families long before there is an estate to settle. Your clients, their families, and most importantly, the Executor, will be grateful for this service.
From experience, we know that many issues with wills and estates stem from an absence of dialogue between Testators, Executors, and Beneficiaries. Without this communication, parties to the estate will formulate their own reasons why a will or an estate plan reads like it does. To help ensure a smooth, conflict-free transition, it is a good practice to engage in open dialogue between all three parties well in advance of executing a will.
It may surprise you that many of your clients are open to having these discussions. While we often think that some of these subjects as taboo or too sensitive to share, the opposite is true. Most clients struggle with these issues on their own and don’t know where to turn to for counsel or advice. They want guidance on how to deal with inequality, personal history, behaviors, and final wishes.
All Testators want their estate to be settled in a straightforward fashion according to their directions. To that end, Testators want to set up their Executors for success. Working in advance with both the Testator and the Executor will go a long way toward achieving that goal. Every Executor should be afforded the opportunity to learn about the role and duties in advance.
As part of that exercise they should also conduct a thorough review of the will with the Testator so that both parties know explicitly how to implement final wishes.
Several articles highlight the need for open communication before your client passes on and leaves the estate to be settled. In the first article, When siblings fight over the farm, an advisor can help, I can’t help but think of Strother Martin’s immortal words in Cool Hand Luke: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” Resolving conflict could be a simple matter if all parties took twenty or thirty minutes to set expectations ahead of time.
In the second article, We have 750 billion reasons to have “the talk” about inheritance with our children, I would like to highlight the benefits of communication to an advisor having these conversations. Clients put a significant amount of trust in us when they invest their time into our services. Helping clients turn to open dialogue in their families through addressing inheritance planning is one of the best ways to ensure that investment generates a positive return. Moreover, it will demonstrate the value of your counsel to your client’s loved ones.
If you are looking for more client-friendly advice on estate planning, feel free to download this complimentary Will Preparation Guide to for your clients, or visit ERAssure.com for more practical tips and resources.