Deland on Estates and Elder Law

Sunday, February 5, 2012

"Double Decker" Estate Planning

 The meeting was to complete the estate planning of the mother.  In the room, were, shall we say, the mother "Mary" and her daughter "Jane".  (Names and other details have been changed to preserve clients' privacy.)  Mary had asked if Jane could be present, and I had said "yes, that would be fine."

The daughter had some views about what her mother's estate plan should say.  As is typical in these cases, the issue involved furniture - tangible personal property - the least valuable, but often most emotional, portion of any estate.  The mother, Mary, was giving me some detailed instructions, when Jane interrupted with a suggestion.  "No," said Mary, "this is what I want to do." But Jane would not be quiet.  She persisted in telling their mother what to do.   It began to seem as if Mary would give in, and I would be preparing a document that did not exactly reflect her wishes.
Finally, I reminded Jane that the plan was her mother's and stated that if she persisted in trying to argue with her mother, she would be asked to leave.  "Fine," said she, in that tone that means "not fine at all" and walked out of the conference room into the waiting area.
It is important, in estate planning, to make sure that the person who is signing the documents is actually making their own plan.  Elders often ask me, "should my child come to the meeting?"  
There is nothing wrong with having the child present.   The mother and I had met alone before, and in fact, hearing this interchange helped to clarify for me what the trust needed to say about these objects.  Hearing it also assured me that the mother did understand what she wanted to do and that she did mean to do it.
Jane calmed down shortly, and we found her in the waiting area when we emerged from the conference room.  She spoke to me cordially before they left.  She understood that my job was to ascertain her mother's wishes, not to adjudicate a family quarrel.
The picture is © Copyright Helmut Zozmann and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


Jennifer A. Deland, Counselor-at-Law advises clients throughout the Metrowest area, including Holliston, Hopkinton, Milford, Medway, Medfield, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Sherborn, Dover, Southborough, Sudbury and Westborough.

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