I'm Dead, Now What?
Peter Katevatis - Nov 01, 2019
Inheritance and wealth transfer may be an event, but the wealth transition process is an evolution.
Before you start sending flowers and organizing my funeral parade (extra clowns please) I will share a famous Mark Twain line:
The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.
Our bodies will hopefully last for over 100 years (or more) but the reality for all of us is that our life is finite. At some point our time will end and our worldly possessions will then become the property of our heirs.
In almost all estate issues we have seen (sadly, too many) there are two themes that often repeat themselves. Either:
The estate is not prepared to properly transfer to heirs
The communication between the deceased and the benefactors has been poor
As a financial professional helping individuals reach their goals, I can honestly say dealing with death is not fun. It is much more exciting working with people to buy a house, car, child’s education, boat or plan a lavish vacation. These are life goals, death is not.
It is an awkward topic for everyone but a special thing happens after some estate planning is complete, people feel better. The sense of resolution and getting the “monkey” off one’s back almost always creates a positive feeling for people. Most situations are simply resolved with some honest conversations.
If your estate issues are simple, here are some key initial steps:
- Determine all your assets by preparing a personal balance sheet
- List beneficiaries including any charities you want to support
- Decide who will be the executor of your estate and let them know
- Depending on age & maturity of beneficiaries, have open discussions about your plan
- Details do not need to be spelled out if you don’t want to but focus on general themes
There is often a concern from parents that if their kids knew the extent of their future inheritance it could somehow detract from their current motivation to work. Parents do not want to see their children stripped of purpose or work ethic. In more complex or larger inheritances, it is highly advised to use an intermediary to help with the planning & presentation to the future beneficiaries.
When acting as an intermediary, we usually start with an overview of family values to see if there is an impact you would like to leave on the community with regards to philanthropy along with your named beneficiaries. With some goals outlined, it will give beneficiaries and the executor a roadmap for future activities. It is hard for people to execute on your wishes if they are not defined. We are happy to assist you in this step.
For example, my father who is of Greek decent, was instrumental on establishing the Chair of Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University. Nobody from our family attended SFU but this program is near & dear to his heart. He established the Katevatis Graduate Scholarship in Hellenic Studies award at SFU so that he could see this program supported. His values (education, Greek culture, hard work & excellence) are matched with a program to execute on that legacy.
We can work closely with you and even host your inheritance-preparedness meetings with your family. Inheritance and wealth transfer may be an “event” but the wealth transition process in an “evolution”. Please reach out today to see what would be needed to ensure your family evolves in a positive way. Don’t leave your family thinking, “Now what?”