I have another home in Tennessee, our little getaway for Elizabeth and me. We try to get there when we can, which is never enough! Tennessee is the epicenter of the moonshine runs that the old stories are made of, of stills in the woods and bootleggers running the "shine" to their destinations in high powered cars in case they ran into the "revenooers," the Federal Marshalls dedicated to breaking up the moonshine runs as the government missed out on their taxes on every jar or jug sold. It must have been quite a time: I've heard stories firsthand from my friends down there of their parent's antics in getting their weekly deliveries.
While in Tennessee last month, we took a day trip to Gatlinberg, a town known for its craft shops and quaint stores and Inns. It's been quite some time since I've been there, and I came to find that it became quite commercial, with all the chain stores and souvenir shops you could imagine. What really showed me that times had changed though, was a moonshine store called "Old Smokey;" the first legal moonshine factory. Out of the woods and into mainstream society since the early 1900's- happy to pay their taxes in exchange for getting legal and to have a store right in the middle of millions of visitors a year.
It got me to thinking...the progression of Moonshine is similar to many people's estate planning. Hidden in the dresser drawer (a simile for the woods) not to see the light of day or heaven forbid discovered by someone, concealed away from anyone to see and never changed. Back to the Moonshine- finally, a wise son of a famous moonshiner decided to get modern and fought for years to finally get it legal to sell street side, happy to pay the taxes in exchange for a multi-million-dollar business. How long has it been since you reviewed your moonshine, or legal documents like your will, durable power of attorney, living will, health care proxy or trusts? Have you checked on the beneficiary designations on your IRA accounts and other retirement accounts lately? You'd be surprised how many times I meet with a client to find that their prior spouse was still the primary beneficiary on their retirement account or life insurance policy. Do you know for sure who is on the deed to your house? Who owns your cars, or other holdings? We also find with regularity "lost brokerage accounts" that were relatively small and have slid under the radar, as they say. My point is, that estate planning is not a process to do once and bury in a drawer or lock-box, never to see the light of day again. It's a living, breathing document that needs to be brought out every three years or so and reviewed for changes, deletions or additions. New grandkids, executors who have passed away, new thoughts on philanthropy...all changes that need to be made to your plan.
Don't be the one to leave a mess for your kids to clean up, or to split your family apart. Pull out those old documents, or if you are one of the many who have not gotten around to it, now is the time to get your estate in order. To be frank, dying without setting up your estate plan is a total mess and obligation for those you leave behind. So, get it done, take a deep breath that it's done, and don't bury it too deep- in three years or so, it's time once again dig them out to read through again. In between, it gives you time to do what you want, knowing your estate is in order, or as I say, "see you on the tee!"
TO ALL MY READERS AND FRIENDS: May you have a wonderful and loving Thanksgiving holiday. Please take a moment to remember all of those who you have had the pleasure of celebrating Thanksgiving together who may not be here any longer, and do something for those who are not as fortunate as some of us for the abundance in our lives.