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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Steve Shane at firstname.lastname@example.org or .
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Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.
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