Remember the 50’s song “Only You”? Well, in the estate planning process, there are certain steps that onlyyou can take care of, as we often remind clients of Geyer & Associates. Only you, for example, can create a complete list of everything you own.  In fact, as the authors of The Beneficiary Book advise, you should “make two lists: your assets and the people you would like to own those assets.

One Indianapolis professional, Tom McAllister, CFP®, likes to tell about a certain home-style estate planning technique he tested on his own family…

“About a year before my mother died, my next younger brother and I decided to do something about her “multiple gifting” problem. She had four sons, one deceased, and twelve grandchildren as well as their mothers in her life. She had been verbally promising some of her jewelry, collectibles, clothing, recipe books, etc., to more than one of her heirs since my dad had died twelve years before.

“Back in my home town on business one Saturday in October, 1993, my brother Mike and his wife Rita and I proceeded with my now-famous (in our family) estate planning tools – zip-lock
bags and yellow sticky notes. We proceeded to go through all Mom’s jewelry and collectibles as well as small furniture items which she had promised to various heirs”.

Tom and Mike would bring forth articles for their mother to examine and determine to whom among her many heirs she wanted each item to go. Mike’s wife Rita would then write the name of the heir and a description of the item, depositing both into a Zip-lock bag, and putting the bag in the safe. Things too large for the safe would go through the same procedure, with a sticky
Note taped to the back of the item.

Once the adult children were through with this exercise, which took a couple of hours, Tom relates, he sprang his trap, suggesting they go back through everything, and separate the items into two piles. The first and smallest pile consisted of items their mother would use occasionally or regularly for the rest of her life.

Tom then asked his mother if she would like to give away the items in the other pile as Christmas gifts that year, 1993. Mom, he remembers, was absolutely thrilled with the idea. She
exclaimed “I won’t have to do much Christmas shopping at all.”

“So now you now know one of McAllister’s high tech estate planning techniques,” Tom exclaims. “You are welcome to use it as you need to!” he adds.

While the creation of legal documents appointing someone to administer your estate after death is important, it remains true that there are certain estate planning tasks that (perhaps with plastic bags in hand), “only you” can take care of!