By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD
Money Matters Radio – Estate Planning Checklist
Introduction/Overview: Tonight, March 29, 2010 is the first night of Passover. Thursday is Holy Thursday. Friday, April 2, 2010 is Good Friday. And Sunday is Easter Sunday. The common themes of this amazing holiday week include a range of wonderful life lessons.
For example, during the Passover Seder the unleavened bread is initially referred to as the bread of affliction, a symbol of slavery and bitterness. Later in the festival meal it is referred to as the bread of freedom. How can the same piece of unleavened bread change its character? What happens during the course of the meal? By inviting the poor to eat at your table for the meal the unleavened bread transforms from bread of affliction to bread of freedom. What could a just freed slave own by way of property? Precious little, but sharing that little with someone less fortunate it the mechanism to realize your own freedom.
At the last supper Jesus said to the Apostles that one of you will deny me three times by turning against him. All of the Apostles claimed that they would not betray Jesus. Following the dinner Peter was asked if he was an Apostle three times and three times he denied his allegiance to Jesus. Yet during the curing the Crucifixion Jesus asked God to forgive everyone. According to many the ultimate act of forgiveness and sacrifice.
While celebrating and enjoying your holiday season, make affirmative plans to implement these wonderful universal lessons into your estate plan.
Consider the following items?
√ Forgive: Don’t hold a grudge in your estate plan. Instead of using your will to disinherit someone who has offended you, justified or not, use it to heal. For example, instead of saying: “I leave nothing to my daughter because she has never been kind and respectful.” Consider instead: “I leave ½ share to my daughter as an expression of my hope that our relationship will have improved before my demise, and as a demonstration of my continued love and caring for her in spite of differences we may have had.” The only one who looses out in this type of change is the therapist who might no longer have a patient!
√ Charity: It’s been a tough economy. But no matter how bad off you are, there are those that have much less. Find an opportunity to give back, to give charity, to help those less fortunate. Do it in a manner that your heirs see and learn from your actions. Estate planning should not only be about the transmission of your wealth, but of your values as well.
√ Revise your Will: At some point the government will make up its mind about the estate tax. With all the tax uncertainty and economic turmoil of the past few years perhaps everyone should revise their wills. When you do, be sure to add something for charity. It need not be large and it need not be a tax motivated or planned transactions, but rather do it to demonstrate your values to your heirs, to leave them a moral lesson as well as a financial legacy.
√ Make a Gift: To many parents and others cut off a child or other natural heir over some real or perceived abuse. Commit this holiday season to take the first step at healing that wound, of crossing that barrier, regardless of the wrongs or injustices you’ve experienced. One lesson of a quarter decade of estate planning is clear. Life is short, fragile and precious and too often too many of us wait until it is too late to mend fences that are far more important that the trifling abuses that created the rift in the first place.
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