Estate administration is, from a legal perspective, a straightforward process. In reality, your successor trustee / executor will need to make many decisions to wrap up your affairs which can be overwhelming without your guidance. In order to distribute your estate, your successor trustee / executor needs to know what asset you owned. Your will and trust will likely state that your children are equal beneficiaries. What about unique items? Do you want estate distributed in kind or liquidated and paid in cash? While it can be very clear to you in terms of who gets what, and how, your successor trustee/ executor will not be fully aware without your guidance.
Family fights often result from the distribution of sentimental items, even those with minimal financial value. Unlike money, you only have one of these items which more than one of your children would like to have. You can prevent these fights and control the process by specifying who gets what. You can do this in the form of a letter or other writing. Another way to control this process is to distribute some of these items while you are still alive.
It is equally important to express how your money is to be spent prior to your death. Your surrogate decision maker will face a number of questions about spending your funds, and you can assist and guide them by providing your instructions in advance. For example, do you want a family member to be compensated for providing care? This a frequent source of family disagreement which can be reduced if you provide instructions. Can your funds be used to remodel a family member’s home so that you can comfortably live with them? Do you want gifts to charity or relatives to continue? Your answers to these and other related questions will not only increase your control over your estate, but also reduce the stress experienced by your family members who would otherwise need to guess at the “right” answer.