As we approach the holidays, many Americans are committing to finally discussing their estate plans with their family members. This may be the only time of the year when everyone is together in one place. Whether you have most of your decisions made or need input from your family before beginning to draft the plan with your attorney, some discussion is always best. This can help prevent conflict, confusion and surprises after you’re gone.
Even if you’re making decisions that will be unpopular with one or more family members, if they understand your reasoning and know that you’re making the decisions without anyone influencing you, they’ll be more likely to accept them rather than contest the estate in court.
You may have decided most matters and simply want to inform your loved ones. However, in many cases, it’s best to find out how people feel about your intentions.
For example, perhaps you’re planning to give your Big Sur vacation property to one of your children who lives near it. However, maybe they don’t want it, while another one of your kids would really enjoy it. You might be planning to leave a greater share of your wealth to the child who has the least amount of money and the most financial responsibilities. However, that child may not want to be treated any different than their siblings.
If you’re choosing a family member to be the estate executor or for some other fiduciary capacity, like overseeing your health care directive, make sure that the person you’ve chosen (and any alternates) is willing and feels able to handle this responsibility.
There may be some topics you’d rather discuss only with the individuals involved (for example, if you’ve decided not to leave one of your children anything or to put their funds in a trust). At least, you may want to talk to them alone before sharing your decisions with the entire family.
Everyone’s family dynamics are unique. If you have questions or concerns about how to discuss your estate plan with your family, your California estate planning attorney can likely offer some valuable guidance.