Michael F. Odar, CFA®

President

Settling Our Estate

Recently updating our estate plan made me think about the actual implementation of the plan. After all, successful plans require attention and thoughtful execution. Do we want to burden our boys with it? If so, should we? Our plan isn’t complicated, but will they actually know what to do? How long will it take? How will outstanding bills get paid? What happens to our personal property? How does probate actually work? It can be overwhelming.

Through many conversations with our team and a little experience of my own, I realized few estate plans are as simple to carry out as the printed words in a will and trust suggest. Settlement of even the most basic estate usually involves hundreds of individual tasks and actions, ranging from the simple (such as paying the decedent’s final bills) to the complex (such as making important tax elections that impact future generations of beneficiaries). Estate settlement may entail months or years, depending upon its complexity and circumstances. Regardless, settlement requires timely and time-consuming attention to deadlines and details, care and prudent management of estate assets, and, above all, an unwavering commitment to the sacred duties of a fiduciary: honesty, impartiality among beneficiaries, and confidentiality.

By naming Greenleaf Trust to oversee the settlement of our estate, we not only alleviate burdens from those close to us, we may also preserve family harmony. Appointing one child, sibling, niece or nephew, for example, to serve in a fiduciary capacity to the exclusion of others can be a recipe for distrust and hurt feelings. Conversely, appointing a group of individuals to settle one’s estate can be inefficient, impractical, and costly. I’m proud that Greenleaf’s fair, impartial, and transparent treatment of all beneficiaries avoids the tension and conflicts that might otherwise arise between beneficiaries and those who serve as fiduciary.

Over the last couple of years and based on need, we have expanded our estate settlement team through the addition of new talent. Our team now includes five experienced professionals with diverse backgrounds solely focused on estate settlement. The larger team allows us to be more proactive, effective, and efficient.  It’s reassuring to us to know that team members that I know and trust at Greenleaf Trust will be handling the settlement of our estate. I hope our clients and their beneficiaries feel the same way.