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Is your estate plan important to you?

Many of us labor a lifetime to build up our assets and fight for causes that matter to us. Few things are more fulfilling than the thought of sharing wealth and legacy with our family.

Of course, it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality, but careful planning can mitigate the two primary risks.

a) Your intentions regarding your estate weren’t made clear, resulting in the potential for costly, time-consuming conflict.

b) Your family did not understand or share your wealth management vision, resulting in the possibility of asset dissipation.

The good news is both of these issues can be prevented through honest communication with your family now. While it’s not necessarily comfortable to broach this topic, a family gathering at the holidays might be the best time to have a conversation with your children and loved ones about your estate plan.

Why it’s important to talk about your estate plan with your family 

Passing along our wealth is one thing, but what about passing along the values of work ethic and generosity that enabled us to acquire and grow that wealth in the first place? Too many fortunes built by one generation are lost by the next, not due to bad luck or the IRS, but due to a lack of understanding of wealth management and preservation. Also, when your family doesn’t appreciate the rationale behind your estate planning choices like the use of lifetime trusts, this lack of understanding can lead to conflict and resentment among family members. In a worst case scenario, your heirs end up suing one another. No one relishes the idea of family being torn apart over antiques, heirlooms, or who gets the house on Long Island. Nevertheless, it happens far more often than anyone cares to admit.

Should you tell your children about their inheritance?

The question of whether to tell the children about their inheritance is the subject of ongoing debate. Many people express concern that this information might reduce a child’s work ethic or make them feel otherwise entitled, killing their motivation to seek a career and a “normal” life. Depending on the child’s temperament, this might be a legitimate point. On the other hand, inexperience and lack of understanding about wealth can result in a quickly lost inheritance, only because your heir didn’t know what to do.

The best path for most of us is a “happy medium,” sharing your plan in general terms with your heirs, without necessarily telling them the dollar values. You might even entrust some heirs with some responsibility for investment and entrepreneurial opportunities now before they inherit anything. This way, they begin to share your guiding values, and they are therefore better prepared to handle, manage and even grow their inheritance when they ultimately receive it.

Communication now prevents conflict later

You have put careful thought into which assets go to which beneficiaries and why. But, when the details of a plan are sprung on people, especially during a time of grief, differing opinions can create conflict. If your family unexpectedly discovers upon your death that there is a significant amount of money to be distributed, and you haven’t shared your rationale behind the decisions you’ve made, then you’ve set the stage for conflict and infighting – possibly even a costly and lengthy lawsuit.

To overcome these challenges, frame your estate planning around your guiding principles, communicate your intentions thoroughly in the trust, and explain your vision clearly to your trustees and beneficiaries while you’re still around to explain things. By attaching your values to your estate planning and involving your family in the process, your estate plan now becomes a family plan, minimizing the risk of conflict.

See our next blog, Talk to Your Family over the Holidays about Your Estate Plan (Part 2- WHAT & HOW) for specific advice on what to discuss and how to make this discussion most beneficial for you and your family.  In whatever way you choose to address this sensitive subject with your family, remember that we are here to help, from a full review of your estate plan to offering guidance on how to include your loved ones in a family vision for your estate. When you’re ready, contact us for an appointment at support@YourFamily.legal or 941-275-2785 to discuss your needs.  With us, YOUR Family Matters!