Estate planning can be very personal. Details, such as what your assets are, how you plan to distribute them, who you trust as alternate decision-makers and who you trust to handle your final affairs, can be difficult to talk about, especially if you are trying to avoid conflict with family members.
However, sharing some details about your estate plan with family members can actually help prevent hard feelings, miscommunication and family infighting in the future. It may even help prevent your loved ones from challenging your will or other estate planning documents in court.
Consider calling a family meeting
Depending on your situation, you may choose to start with a few one-on-one meetings. For example, if you want your son to serve as the executor or your daughter to take over the family business, you may consider talking to them one-on-one to make sure each is willing to take on the role you would like him or her to. Although there can be value in having a few conversations one-on-one, it is important to get everyone together at some point for a family meeting.
Calling a family meeting allows you the opportunity to get everyone on the same page with regards to your estate plan. For family members who live far away, consider setting up a video call or conference phone call.
How much should I tell my family members?
How much you choose to share about your estate plan is up to you. It can be helpful if you share at least the basics of your plan, as well as any parts of the plan that may affect your family members. Many people choose not to share the exact amount any family member might inherit. However, some situations may require adjusting the expectations of your beneficiaries.
You may also consider explaining any inequalities in your estate plan. For example, you may consider explaining why only one child’s inheritance is being kept in a trust or why a certain person was chosen to serve as executor.
What reactions should I expect?
It may be safest to prepare for a variety of reactions from your loved ones. Talking about money and death can make many people uncomfortable in general, but the details of your plan could also potentially spark controversy.
However, by having the conversation now, you can help your family members work through any conflicts or hard feelings. Also, you may still be able to alter some parts of your estate plan if your wishes change.
The decisions you make about your estate plan and how much detail you relay to your family members are up to you. However, sharing some details now can increase the odds that your plan will be implemented smoothly when the time comes.