From a practical perspective, having your estate in order can reduce the time and stress of having to handle various sundry tasks at an emotionally trying time in life. But the greater value is in protecting your loved ones from the hurt that can happen when your final “words” to them aren’t spoken with care and thoughtfulness.

The following story demonstrates the emotional impact that failing to properly allocate assets may have on your loved ones.

I know a family of three adult siblings, a sister and her two brothers. There was an aunt that the family had been close to while growing up. The aunt became ill and the sister was the one who primarily was caring for her.

However, the estate planning aspect of her life was never discussed until it was too late. The person acting as executor of the estate was a cousin of the family, not the sister or brothers. No questions were asked and the family never discussed any of the aunt’s plans as not to pry into the aunt’s personal business.

Fast forward a few years…the aunt became incapacitated and her health took a turn for the worst. Financial changes were in order as the aunt had to move to a higher level nursing facility. The family was in touch with the cousin who informed them that there wasn’t much money left, and what was left (by the way) was going to the two brothers – not the sister!

The sister was in shock. An inheritance wasn’t something she expected, but it was a slap in the face to know that her brothers (who hadn’t been involved at all in caring for her aunt) would be getting one instead of her.

This created all sorts of emotional turmoil for the sister. She had no idea why she’s received this “blow form the grave.” She questioned if the aunt had been harboring some resentment towards her all along. Or maybe her aunt just didn’t care for her as much as she thought. Or, was it a mistake? Had her aunt perhaps omitted her in error, or intended to allocate a non-monetary asset or keepsake that somehow didn’t make it into the will? All of these questions were unresolved, and unfortunately there will never be answers. As the aunt had become incapacitated, it was impossible to have the conversation.

Now the sister was in a position of having to rely upon the good will of her brothers to direct some of their inheritance over to her. But that conversation would also be hard to have, and from a legal perspective she didn’t have the right to any of what they were bequeathed.

The result? Lingering emotions of hurt, confusion, rejection, and even anger towards someone she really cared for, all of which the sister now lives with and will the rest of her life.

Don’t fail to protect the hearts of those you love. Your final act of love is too precious to be handled carelessly. If you have questions about how to plan your estate, feel free to reach out to me at pcoppola@acornep.com