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Gifting before or after death?

Updated on March 25, 2015

Most of us want to leave one last gift to our family. This gift may not be what is considered a gift but rather a legacy. Let’s begin by determining who is our family. In many cases this will be limited to or may include our immediate blood family members. However, for many, many people there is also the ultimate of gifting to organizations and groups who have become a part of our global family. These groups will frequently be comprised of friends; individuals carrying out work that we wholeheartedly believe are for the greater good. And as our generation is the first to not only have the power to do so, but also the distance from our immediately family; this gifting has become far more frequent. And therein lies the conundrum – of personalities, immediate family vs. global family, our total believe in organizations which are perhaps not held in as high esteem by others close to us.

Determining how to leave assets to family is a task that will require clear heads and hearts. This job will require the ability to look closely and determine the impact as well as the acceptance of the gifting.

1. Let’s begin with if you are considering gifting to any one on state or federal aid please consult with an attorney first. The reason is our generosity can have an extremely negative impact on this person and just may leave them without what was to be their gift.

2. Consider personalities and temperament, prior to actually writing in the name of the person and the gift. Certainly, personally we will not have to see or hear any of the fallout, but do we really want to have this scene as the last remembrance of us.

3. Consider the telling of the gift, will this gift imply a lack of pride in the individual or the decisions they may be making. It is hard to gift an education to a person who has made it clear this is not the chosen path for them. We do not want to attach our wishes from beyond the grave.

It is also very important to remember that if a gift will require some answers or produce some instruction that will explain the circumference of the gift. If this is the case and we are trying very hard after the economic hit all of us took in the mid-2000’s, perhaps it would be better to not spend money now, but rather gift an item which would have been a part of the inheritance. An example of the form of gifting is for birthdays (of our adult children [3]) during the year 2015; we will give each adult child a piece of jewelry that would have been one they received at the time of our Will being read. Another great gift for the adult child is a portion of the property, which may have a dramatic impact on them financially when our Will is read. Perhaps as is the case so often today, money is very tight however we want our adult children to gain some prospective of how we first earned and then lost any financial gain we had. One item which can be given either prior to or after death is a bit of genealogy if you will, a modest amount of money and a loving amount of work will provide each adult child and grandchild with either a written or recorded history of our life. This can be as in-depth as we want and will provide not just a conversational item, but also an educational tool.

All of the above mentioned gifting would allow for not just a gift received at the time of great emotional turmoil, but for times to come.

Now we have spoken about gifting to family and friends that are immediate in our lives. However, what about those gifts that are a little more abstract from our lives. Unless families of an immediate proximity, know and understand this kind of gifting there will, almost certainly, be hurt feelings and anger. So what can we do in our time and then at the time of our Will being read to Bely so much hurt?

  1. Make sure our immediate family knows of our views and alliances. Talk about our beliefs and desires. How they came about and what we want for the future of these organizations. Make sure this belief is shown in our everyday life.
  2. Make sure everyone understands our belief. Answer questions, do not anger when questioned about the belief, but do explain why you believe. Families are quick to believe culprits in the shadows when caught off guard and unawares. Example: You want to leave a sum of real property to a religious organization. Make you wishes know to all around you, not in a speech, but in your everyday conversations. When we know the reasons and lifestyle, we are far less apt. to jump to the conclusion of scamming.
  3. When we decide to give all our wealth to only one person, be prepared for a rocky road. Do not wait for the family, both near and far, to hear about this only after death and through the words of a professional with only and professional interest. There are very good reasons for all estate value to go to only one person, it is just so important to see that all understand our reasons.

The great peacemaker is communication.

Next week: What happens when someone close has a terminal illness and we (the family) do not agree with his or her wishes for treatment.

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