Should you share estate planning details with family members?

An estate plan can be very personal. The details you share with family members are entirely up to you. However, providing clarity now might help prevent future problems.

Still, talking about death and money can be uncomfortable for you and your loved ones. This is why it can be helpful to prepare. It might help to think about when you might bring up the subject and which details you are willing to share.

How a candid conversation can help

You do not have an obligation to share any more than what you are comfortable sharing. However, an honest conversation with your loved ones about your wishes can have many benefits.

Sharing the details of your estate plan can:

  • Help adjust any unrealistic expectations your loved ones may have
  • Offer you the opportunity to explain why you made the choices you did
  • Provide loved ones a chance to share their concerns
  • Allow you the time to address any of your loved ones' concerns
  • Prevent your loved ones from contesting your estate planning documents and overturning your wishes

Consider calling a family meeting

Depending on your situation, it might be helpful to talk with all your close family members at once. That way everyone is likely to feel included, and everyone will hear the same information.

You may want to invite anyone who is named in your estate plan, as well as anyone who might expect to be named in your estate plan. This may include your spouse, your children, your siblings or others.

However, a family meeting may not be best for all situations. You could also meet with your loved ones in a series of one-on-one conversations.

Some details are more important than others

Although you are not required to share any estate planning details, knowing certain details can be helpful to your loved ones. For example, you may not want to share exactly how much money your beneficiaries will inherit, but they may be able to plan better if they have a realistic estimate. If you are disinheriting someone, they may want to know why. Your logic could be a reason for that person to turn their life around for the better.

If you chose a certain family member to take on the family business, it may be important to share this with that person as well as other family members. The one who will inherit your business may need time to prepare for that responsibility, if he or she is even willing to take it on. Once the record has been set straight with other family members, they may be more open to different opportunities that may come up in their lives.

It may also help your loved ones to know:

  • If you are currently living within your means
  • Who will be managing your final affairs
  • Who will make decisions for you if you can no longer make them for yourself

Some of these conversations may be more difficult to have than others. If you find yourself struggling to find the right words, consider focusing on your values.

For example, you might explain that you left assets of unequal worth to each child because you value leaving useful or sentimental gifts over leaving equal gifts. You might also explain that you left your business to a certain relative because you value the dedication that person has already shown for the business.

It is important to remember that your estate planning decisions are yours to make. You do not need the approval of your loved ones. However, sharing important details about your estate plan can be beneficial to your loved ones and may help to ensure a smooth transition when the time comes.

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