Alumni Advisors share estate planning tips
November 24, 2015
Eleanor Roosevelt said that we should “learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” With that advice in mind, Syracuse University Los Angeles and the Syracuse University Professional Advisors Network hosted a special alumni event on the top 10 estate planning mistakes and how to avoid them. The program was held on Nov. 12 at Lawry’s Restaurant in Beverly Hills with Mark Nicholas, Esq. L’94, the CEO/founder of Family Archival Solutions and the National Will Registry, and financial advisor Harvey Warren G’74 of the Advisor Resource Group presenting on the topic.
Nicholas said that 65% of adults in this country do not have wills. “The majority of estate planning happens when you are alive,” he said. He encourages people to create a road map for their estate planning that includes a list detailing where their estate documents are kept and who is responsible for handing the estate when they pass.
“The real purpose of estate planning is love,” he said. “You’re trying to take care of the people you love. That’s why you should build a plan that’s simple and straightforward, so it’s easy to handle things in your absence.”
He advises that a spouse should not be the executor of their partner’s will. After a death of such a close relation, people are usually not in the right mental state to be making sound financial decisions, and “serving as an executor of someone’s will is not a gift, it’s a job.” Executors, who are paid a percentage of the estate to deal with the deceased person’s assets, need to be impartial and emotionless when settling someone’s estate, so seeking the help of a professional fiduciary is advisable. “A good executor is pure business – not self-interested,” he explained.
Most conflicts that arise when settling a family member’s estate don’t have to do with money – they have to do with existing conflicts, clashing personalities, and arguments about who’s making the decisions. “It’s never the assets that cost families money – conflicts cost money,” Nicholas explained.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank to cover funeral costs, what matters is the amount that can be withdrawn - you need to have access to the cash. If the bank account is only in the deceased person’s name, you cannot simply log into their online account to withdraw the funds – that’s fraud. Nicholas said that both spouses names should be on bank accounts with funds for funeral expenses so the other person can access the money when it’s needed.
5 Estate Planning Tips
- Write solid documents with a professional
- Consider naming a financial professional as your executor
- Review documents when there are significant life events (marriage, birth, death)
- Include your heirs in the discussion
- Consider life insurance to make sure you have the cash on hand needed for funeral expenses and taxes
Written by SULA Staff
Photos by Rich Prugh '06