It is risky to leave your estate and financial affairs unattended or secret from the rest of your family. According to research released this year, over 64% of all Americans do not have a will, and half of the people included in that statistic have children. When you do not have a will or keep your estate planning matters secret, it has the potential to cause discord in the family or cause the assets in the estate to be improperly handled. However, with the holiday season upon us, now can be a great time to discuss your estate plans with family members and avoid any potential problems in the future.
Choose the Right People for the Right Roles
One common error in the estate planning process is giving roles to members of the family according to what the testator thinks that they would want, rather than assigning tasks according to who would be best suited for the role. Acting as a fiduciary, trustee, or executor to an estate is a job, and you need to pick the right candidate. This means considering who would be truly best suited to handle tough responsibilities like medical, financial, and legal decisions.
Set the Tone of the Talk
Depending on your personal family dynamic, you can set the tone of the talk as something more informal as a purely family affair or more formal with the help of an estate planning attorney ready to answer any questions that may arise. Many experts believe that the informal approach is preferable because it keeps the talk from being too formal, antagonistic, or feeling like it is a preliminary round before litigation. However, some families prefer an estate planning attorney be there to help answer the more technical or difficult questions that the family may have.
Prepare the Paperwork and Bring Copies
Once you know who you want to fill key roles in your estate plan, have the paperwork drafted and any necessary documents notarized before the talk. This cements your wishes and presenting copies to all of your family members leaves little room for misinterpretation of your wishes.
Prepare Your Answers Ahead of Time
Another helpful tip is to prepare what you want to say beforehand, and think about how you will answer any potential questions that may arise during the talk. This includes giving clear answers to why you chose a person for a specific duty and what your goals are in setting up your estate plan. If an estate planning attorney is present, you can also go over what questions you will field and what is the attorney’s responsibility to answer.
Keep Discord to a Minimum
In order to keep argument to a minimum, remind your family that the goal of the talk is to let them know that you are securing their futures in addition to informing them about what your wishes are for your estate. Answers questions in a forthright manner, but try not to do so at the expense of antagonizing other family members. You can set ground rules for the discussion, and do not be afraid to squash any unnecessary drama that may arise.
Remember that It is an Ongoing Discussion
Estate plans often change and are revised over time, so keep in mind that this talk is an ongoing discussion between you and your family. It is also important for your loved ones to remember it, too, and to understand that as circumstances change the will may change with it. Because of this, you do not need to feel pressured to share every detail of your estate plan, and you can set up the expectation that future talks will happen about the estate.