Talking to Your Family About Your Estate Plan
In my practice as an estate planning lawyer, I meet with clients almost every day who are at least a little bit intimidated by the process. For many, it is not the logistics that bother them; it is the difficult subject matter. It can be quite uncomfortable to face the reality that we will not live forever and just as difficult to talk about money and property concerns that extend beyond our lifetime. As challenging as it may be to have these conversations with a stranger—albeit an estate planning professional—it is often harder to talk openly with family members and loved ones. If your loved ones do not know what is in your estate plan, however, they could face unnecessary problems in the future.
The Right to Know
Movies and television shows tend to present the reading of a deceased person’s will as the height of drama—sometimes for comedic effect, but nearly always as a source of conflict. In reality, there is no reason to make your family and unrelated heirs wait until after your death to learn what you have planned. Those who love you do not have the legal right to know your estate planning intentions, but advance knowledge can prevent a host of potential issues.
Your estate plan could include appointments for individuals to serve in various capacities, such as your executor, a trustee, or even a guardian for your minor children. At the very least, these individuals deserve to know why you have chosen them and what you expect from them after your death.
Do Not Hide Your Wealth
If you own substantial assets, you may be hesitant to tell your loved ones out of fear that they behave differently in light of the news. For example, if your children expect a large inheritance, you may have concerns regarding their incentives to work hard and build their own success in life. But, failing to tell them could be equally destructive, as a large influx of cash or property could leave your heirs unsure of how to handle the unexpected windfall. Talking to your family in advance also gives you the ability to voice your expectations, which could even be included in the terms of a contingency trust or similar estate planning instruments.
There is no way to know for sure how your family members will interact with one another after your death, but unresolved questions about your estate certainly will not help them. By having frank and open conversations about your wishes in advance, your loved ones will have the opportunity to ask questions and fully understand how your estate should be handled. Your candor will also reduce the likelihood of legal action contesting the validity of your estate planning documents. When your family knows what to expect, there is little reason for them to doubt your intentions or soundness of mind.
We Can Help
If you are unsure of how to begin the estate planning discussion with your family, our experienced Naperville estate planning lawyers can help provide the direction you need. Contact the Gierach Law Firm to schedule a confidential consultation. Give your loved ones the peace of mind they deserve by calling 630-756-1160 today. You can also click or tap here to download our free estate planning guides.