The Boulder County Senior Law Day will take place this Saturday at the Plaza Event Center in Longmont, CO. Here is their website if you are interested in registering for the event or would like more information. There will be 20 different presentations on topics ranging from how to serve as a fiduciary or health care agent for another person; the basics of Medicaid and what you need to know; what’s “trending” in elder fraud (presented by Jane Walsh, Deputy DA from the 20th judicial district); special needs planning and many other interesting topics. I have been asked to present on ethical wills and leaving a meaningful legacy.
I have written several blog posts on this topic, but I find something new to write about each time I return to this topic! Most of us estate planning attorneys need to have a sharp eye for identifying potential minefields in a client’s choice of beneficiaries. It goes without saying we must be vigilant to find ways of minimizing conflict and potential conflict among fiduciaries (agents under powers of attorney, trustee, and the like) as well as beneficiaries in assisting a client in putting together a comprehensive estate plan for managing disability or incapacity (using durable powers of attorney) and for post-mortem planning (by using a will and other available tools suited to the client’s situation).
The estate planning documents we draft for clients are legal documents and we lawyers tend to draft them in ways that are free from language regarding the testator’s (the legal term for a person who makes a will) thoughts or feelings about particular persons or things, but some important documents can help fill in the gaps or empty spaces. One of these is an ethical will.
Another related document is what is known as a “side letter” which is focused more closely on fleshing out and providing the context for a testator’s intent concerning the rationale for distribution in a will or other estate planning document. These “side letters” are not without risk and they will likely not be effective in swaying contentious beneficiary who holds to the belief that they have been cheated out of a larger share of an estate.
What I will be talking about Saturday are the benefits of drafting an ethical will or legacy letter to “bequeath,” if you will, the intangible legacy and values of a person’s life. This writing can also greatly benefit the writer of the document to provide an opportunity help establish one’s own meaning of existence and to weave together the pieces of one’s life into something one might call purpose. In today’s always-on age of constant chatter, busy-ness and noise, such an exercise of reflection can be priceless!
© Barbara E. Cashman 2017 www.DenverElderLaw.org