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Chicago Trustee Collaboratory
Where to share how a trustee could and should be
Where to share how a trustee could and should be


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A deliberate and mindful legacy can leave lasting impressions in the lives of family members

A legacy is much more than the material wealth we leave behind upon our passing. In this, the first in a series of articles, the authors help us adopt a broader view of a legacy: why legacy conversations are so important and how to begin the process.

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What do you do when your trustee proves to be seriously inadequate?
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Getting your final affairs in order in an orderly way

It has been said the relative comfortable acceptance of one’s dying is probably the most difficult, yet most important psychological accomplishment of a person’s life. Once that bridge has been crossed, the time for “The Talk” is at hand. In this article, the authors clearly delineate the subjects that should be included in this vital conversation and present questions to guide you and your family through this challenging process.

Having “The Talk” For Elder Life Planning

By Irving S. Capitel & Allen Siegel

As the end of a life approaches, a certain discussion is needed to put one’s affairs in order. That difficult conversation is essential on two levels. The more challenging level is emotional, as it acknowledges the sad, inevitable ending and begins the process of “closing shop”. Once acknowledged, it opens the door for the pragmatic level − the concrete plans for death, distribution of inheritances, family expectations.

The last act drama in the circle of life involves letting go and people respond to it differently. The comfortable acceptance of one’s death requires surrender − giving up control over one’s life. Giving up thoughts of invincibility and recognizing that I am impermanent.

The reality of our impermanence is referred to as our transience. It has been said the relative comfortable acceptance of one’s dying is probably the most difficult, yet most important psychological accomplishment of a person’s life.

With the courage to see what’s there to be seen we become able to create a will, or a trust and other “last act” documents that are part of a plan that is needed to protect those we dearly love. It will be easier for everyone when the family has “The Talk,” that gives everyone an opportunity to express their feelings and concerns.

Disability, death, and money are matters no one likes to talk about but time is essential. The time to talk is now, while everyone is mentally and physically capable. Don’t wait until a crisis impacts your judgment and abilities. It’s critical for you to be proactive rather than reactive. Talk about the challenges of aging and share your feelings about that with your children, your trustee, and your executor. These issues are sensitive and might require a professional to help guide you through the conversation.

Having said all this, let’s talk about exploring the possible scenarios of Elder Life Planning with the inner circle of family members that can occur in a safe and confidential environment. The focus of “The Talk” is the family’s articulation of issues connected to aging. Who knows what issues will affect you in your elder years, or how they will impact your family members: your spouse, your partner, your children, and your siblings?

Here is a list of important subjects that are part of the “last act conversation” we suggest you have with your family. They include, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO:

1. Do you have health care and property powers of attorney?
2. If so, who are the decision-makers and are they aware of their
3. Have you communicated your decisions to others?
4. Do you have thoughts about do-not-resuscitate orders? If so, what are they?
5. Who will decide whether or not to “pull-the-plug?”
6. Do you have a prepaid funeral plan? Do you have life insurance and long-
term health
care insurance? Who knows about these items?
7. Have you decided how to dispose of your earthly remains? How will your
memory be
8. Who will be helpful in case you need assistance?
9. What if nursing care is needed?
10. Who will take responsibility for helping or sharing with the help?
11. Do you have a will? Who are your beneficiaries? Who is your executor?
12. Do you have a successor executor?
13. Do you have a trust? Who is your trustee and your successor trustee?
14. Do these people know they are named?
15. Do they know what they all need to do and the extent of their
responsibilities? Have you shared your thoughts about how you would like
your estate and trust to be administered?
16. Do trusted people know where your assets are and how property titles are
Is there a family business that needs consideration?
17. Have you made plans for all of your computer passwords, digital media
presence, and getting your “digital affairs” in order?
18. Ultimately, where is everything? How are things to be handled? What are
your wishes and what are theirs and how will these coincide to meet each
of your goals?

A family meeting that considers all these matters actually is an act of love. This list we provide can be your guide. It will help you prepare essential documents.

Regarding “The Talk”, any family member can initiate it. You can name the time and place of the meeting. An invitation should be extended to everyone whom you believe is an important part of your life and now of your dying. Do this before you go to your estate lawyer to have your final documents drawn up. It will be a tremendous help for you.

If your family feels overwhelmed by these anticipatory recommendations, this process, as we’ve suggested, can be aided by a skilled, experienced lawyer/mediator who can function as a “neutral” family facilitator.

To insure that the professionals you engage, if you choose to do that, agree to guide you and not troll for legal referrals, they should not accept any requests for legal representation by any of the participants in the conversation.

The following questions will help guide you and your family:

1. Where is everything?
2. What will need to be done?
3. Who are the players?
4. What are they willing to do to help?
5. What are everyone’s thoughts and how can they work together to
accomplish the common goals?
6. How can the risk of disagreement, misunderstanding, stress, and financial
issues be reduced?

These planning meetings could also include those who you select as your executor and trustee (if applicable). You want everyone involved in your ending process to understand the process so that they can make the administration of events understandable. It will ease the process and make it as smooth as possible.

Once we deal with our mortality the life we have can get better. Try it and see.

Irving S. Capitel Irving is a member of the Chicago Trustee Collaboratory (CTC). He can be reached at 847-212-6611

Allen Siegel

The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory
Helping Families Flourish! The Chicago Trustee Collaboratory is a not-for-profit professional association helping families and their trusted advisors understand and manage their family trusts.

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Most people focus on money and property when thinking of what will be passed down to their heirs.  But there is something far more enriching that you, your parents and grandparents can give to succeeding generations – namely, the essence of who each family member was and how they lived their lives – as told by you and those who have known each of you best.  Capturing your stories is easy to do if you approach it with a plan as well as with love and compassion.  This series will guide you so that you and your family members can experience the unique joy of passing down the legacy that is, and will forever be, you.
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Sets of rules need to include definitions of winning.
The rules of baseball and other ventures define winning.
Family trusts need to define winning along with the list of rules.
After the grantor is unavailable, beneficiaries should re-define winning within the trust’s terms.
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-Should trust professionals view a trust a neutral and objective document?
-How can a trustee balance grantor intent and beneficiary needs?
-Avoid many conflicts and disputes by taking a nuanced approach to trust administration.
-For a beneficiary the ultimate currency is not money but finding meaning and happiness.
-Low correlation between material wealth and happiness.
-The real relationship between between money and happiness involves the idea that enough is enough.
-Considering the emotional  perspectives of all interested parties should be the determinate of all trustee actions.
-Purpose of any trust document is to serve as a living moral document where real people can find meaning and happiness.
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  This process will help guide your family group to discover and answer:

Where everything is?
What will need to be done?
Who are the players?
What are they willing to do to help?
What are everyone's thoughts and how can they work together to accomplish the goals of all?
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Family Trusts can be more successful with the 3 C’s
CLARITY is important for the beneficiaries as well as the grantor
By cultivating CONSENSUS, a family can enjoy successful alignment
By building COMPETENCE,  a family builds its preparedness.
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The emotional upheaval caused by a large distribution of cash requires a calm and cool response. The beneficiary requires a stabilization process where he is given the time to make one good decision at a time. The active-pause is ancient wisdom where on takes stock I one is, assess a problem and settle on a future course of behavior. The article discusses the six phases of the financial stabilization process.
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