They have a will that tells their grown children how the major assets in their estate will be shared. But a few weeks ago, Jane and Lester took an additional step. They made out two lists. One they shared with their children as soon as it was complete. Jane calls it the "asset locator." It tells the couple's two grown children--a son and daughter--where the assets are. "Everything is in there that they will need to know: Where we have our safe deposit box and where the key is; where our bank and stock broker accounts are. Who to call. Everything."
Jane and Lester want to make things easy and dissension-free for their children to handle all things having to do with the estate. They've even laid out their funeral plans--where they want to be buried, what the tombstones should say, which funeral home to use. "If I go last," Jane says, "I've even told them what kind of food platters to have after the funeral service and where to order them." She is leaving little to chance--or sibling dispute.
What her children don't have a copy of is the second list. Jane calls this the "distribution list." One of the first things she did when she retired a few months ago was to walk through the house and list everything of value: her grandmother's hand-carved chair, the antiques she and Lester have purchased or inherited, the sofa, the Persian rug, Jane's jewelry. The list tells her kids who should get what. She and Lester haven't made all those decisions yet. But Jane has talked to her kids from time to time about what they would want. "Some of the stuff I know one of them wants and I will give it to them. Some stuff this one doesn't like and that one does." And some stuff no one has spoken for. She may eventually sell some of those items--rather than leave it to them to dump her father's paintings or her grandmother's chair.
There are complications, especially with the jewelry. Jane's engagement ring is made up of two small diamonds, setting off a Sapphire center. She wants to make sure it stays in the family for generations to come. It's a ring her daughter has always loved. She is going to leave it to her--with some instructions: When her daughter's four-year-old twins (both boys) come of age--twenty or thirty years hence--and meet the loves of their life, she wants her daughter to give each one a diamond from the ring to use as an engagement gift.
The point of the list, Jane says, is not to control where things go--although clearly there's a little of that in it--but to avoid any legacy disputes between her kids. "I've designated who gets what," Jane says. "because I don't want there to be a fight."
That may be the most important and long-lasting legacy of all.