Most people consider drafting a will a difficult and frankly morbid exercise. They only do it when forced by adult children or spouses. But if you take a slightly creative approach, you really can do more with the will than just dispose of your material possessions.
Strange advice from an estate planning attorney? Perhaps – but consider this comment from Robert Karson, First Republic Private Wealth Management in Garden City, speaking at a recent North Shore Animal League America program: “Your will is the last message that you can leave behind.”
It’s true. From the cranky millionaire who leaves nothing to a son and everything to a museum that he’s never even visited to the control freak who specifies exactly how many times a month heirs must pay a visit to the cemetery to continue receiving funds from a revocable trust, the will is an opportunity to send a message from the beyond.
A few suggestions for those of you who are daring enough to be creative with this otherwise serious document:
Consider the obvious – without being too heavy-handed. If there are people who mean a lot to you, your will is an opportunity to say thank you. It is, and always has been, a vehicle to express positive as much as negative.
Did you want to leave a lasting legacy? If there is an organization – a museum, animal shelter, college or community group – that meant a lot to you or your family, a trust can be set up that will benefit the organization, give your heirs a tax benefit and create a legacy for your family. It does not have to be in the realm of Bill Gates or the Carnegie Foundation to accomplish this.
There are minefields to be navigated. For instance, if you wish to really truly cut a child or family member out of your will completely, make sure that the will reads “I have made no provision for __________.” Do not give a reason, do not say “for reasons known to them” or provide any other detail. Stating your intention in this manner makes it clear that this is your desire – and will make any challenge to the will next to impossible to succeed.
Think of your will as a greeting card from beyond, where you get to write the inscription. What do you want to say?