This Thanksgiving, as I have for the past couple of years, I asked that we go around the table and have each guest tell the group in a few words, the things for which they are grateful. I really appreciated hearing each person’s perspective on this year’s gratitude. When it was my turn, I, of course, stated the obvious items; I was grateful for the health of my family, that my mother traveled north to brave the cold and be with us and for the opportunity to have everyone around the table year after year. My mother indicated her gratitude to live in peace which is clearly a thing of extraordinary value. While this country is far from perfect, having lived and traveled abroad, I am 100% certain there is no country on earth in which I would rather live. I don’t think however, her remark was intended as pure patriotism as I believe she was also referring to her personal life. As we approach this holiday season, familial peace or lack thereof resonates prominently in our lives and there is no single issue that can bring a family closer or tear them apart than the sickness or loss of a parent. Even the closest of families can be fragmentized by conflict, secrets or even a perception that one child is favored over another.
An article I read today prompted this blog, A Conversation Too Long Delayed http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/29/your-money/estate-planning/a-respectful-deference-to-elders-curdles-into-a-fight-over-assets.html?ref=business illustrates the importance of having the discussion about end of life decisions and post mortem wishes with your family. In Amanda Brown’s film “Black Heirlooms,” we hear a story that is all too familiar in my world. Ms. Brown “chronicles her family’s dispute over dividing her grandmother’s estate.” One would think these types of conflicts would be confined to multi-million dollar estates, however as Ms. Brown shows us families are just as likely to fight over grandma’s nominal teacup collection as they are the priceless antiques. In fact, her family’s dispute has arisen over a mere $51,283.50 estate and her grandmother’s failure to document and disclose her wishes.
Other opportunities to gather will occur next month when I implore families to do more than just share a meal and reminisce. While I am not suggesting that your table conversation during your Christmas ham or Chanukah latkes centers on your end of life wishes, this family time might be a good opportunity to take one hour to have the uncomfortable conversations. If your children or another family member are in charge of your decision making in the event you become incapacitated, tell them what you want. It may be just as important to share these wishes with the people who are not in charge as with those who are along with a statement like, ”While I love you all equally, I picked Sally because she is a nurse or Johnny because he is an accountant.” The people in charge need to understand their role as a fiduciary and how important it is to act in the best interest of the person whom they are serving. Whether you are a child who wants to broach the topic with your parents, a parent who wants to impart your wishes to your children, or an individual who hasn’t yet prepared their estate planning documents, the Law Offices of Kristen R. Gross, P.C. can provide you with tips to get the conversation started, facilitate these meetings on your behalf and of course, assist with the preparation of your estate planning documents. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment.