I was out to dinner the other night and overheard a brother and sister discussing their father and his new young bride and her pregnancy. The conversation started in muted whispers however, it didn't take long until their voices got louder as the discussion went on. Soon the entire restaurant was paying attention to these siblings who seemed to be quite put out by their soon to be born half brother or sister, and the other two children their stepmother brought into the family. All the while oblivious to the audience they had around them. The comment that stuck in my mind most was when the sister, almost screamed "That woman and her three kids are cutting into our piece of the pie."
Evidently, these siblings were not only counting on and expecting a certain inheritance from their father, but they were depending on it. And that reminded me of an article posted in the Wall Street Journal one or two years ago written by Anne Tergesen that addresses issues when baby boomers are counting on an inheritance they may be in for quite a shock.
Although the article is a couple of years old, it is still relevant in today's economy. People are living longer, asset values have decreased and often it is the children that are the ones supporting their parents. On the other hand, the article cites The Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College where the Center estimated that baby boomers and their children could, over the next 4 decades, inherit $27 trillion dollars. However, that money is going from the wealthiest families to their wealthy children.
Most interesting in the article were the statistics indicating that families are not real excited about discussing any of these issues with each other. I understand these feelings and logistics. Many people know that they should speak to an attorney about doing some advanced estate planning, or a financial adviser to crunch some numbers and see what they might need to live out their retirement to the fullest given any number of subjective contingencies.
I am surprised at the amount of people who don't take the advantage available across the state for a free initial consultation offered by estate planning professionals to assess the potential client's assets, teach pros and cons about probates and how to avoid them if desired, and limit any exposure to taxation that would otherwise take place at certain events such as lifetime gifting or death. But then again, making an appointment with an estate planning attorney can be a grim prospect for you as often, in addition to protecting your assets at the time of your death, it brings up the idea of your own incapacity or mortality. There are not many people who relish the idea of thinking about these things so the appointment keeps getting pushed to the back burner.
However, there is so much more to estate planning, depending on your assets, how they are held, the knowledge of your legal professional and your family makeup. You can protect your assets during life, give larger gifts during your lifetime and limit taxation, leave your assets to your heirs in such a manner that they are protected from creditors, judgements, spouses, just to name a few considerations.
In short, give your estate planning professional a call. Plan ahead and always be prepared.