Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario from Steve Shane – 1.6.14

Question:  Should we tell our kids what we plan to leave them under our Wills? Answer:  Estate planning is often a private matter and usually an uncomfortable topic for parents to discuss with their adult children.  While death and disability planning can be a morbid topic, having such discussions with children can often avoid problems in the future. Here are some reasons to have upfront conversations with them: 1.  An estate plan needs to be tailored to the personalities, needs and abilities of each family member.  By planning upfront, families can address difficult situations that could arise, such as who is in charge of the estate, who will serve as power of attorney for mom and whether assets should be distributed outright or held in trust.  The purpose of the plan is to prevent sibling rivalry not to create it.  Being upfront can prevent these feelings. 2.  By disclosing the plan to a child, the child may give you information that you might not have considered.  This happened in one case I had where the child admitted that her marriage was not going so well and that she actually preferred her inheritance be left in trust (and not outright), so to avoid an attack from her husband. 3.  A vacation home is a potential source of conflict.  Leaving a home to children can be problematic if one child has no interest and would prefer that the property be sold.  Other issues that arise are the sharing of expenses, cash calls and deciding on large scale repairs. 4.  Treating children unequally is also a source of conflict.  But if there is a valid reason (one child is particularly successful compared to another child who is not), these expectations should be brought to light. Comment: If you choose to speak to children, it may be a good idea to speak to children separately rather than addressing all the children as a group. The downside in revealing an estate plan that does not treat all children equally is that the plan may upset a child who feels that he or she is not being treated fairly (as compared to his/her siblings).  But in general it is better to get this in the open now than risk hostility after you (parent) is gone. Steven E. Shane Principal Offit│Kurman Attorneys At Law 301.575.0313 Washington 410.218.9339 Mobile 301.575.0335 Facsimile Please note the above material discussed is intended to provide only general information. Do not, under any circumstances, solely rely on this information as legal advice. Legal matters are often complicated. For assistance with your specific legal problem or inquiry please contact me directly.