Does Your Family Know About Your Estate Plan?
A Guide for How Much to Share and With Whom
You might be wondering whether or not your family should be familiar with the details of your estate plan. When it comes to your estate plan, many people are often confused about when and what to share with their family, so you’re not alone if you’re trying to decide what to do. There are several reasons for concern, ranging from worry over stirring up family tension to a concern that raising the subject of powers of attorney and healthcare directives isn’t the sunniest of dinner table topics.
However, there are a number of benefits to letting your family know some of the key points covered in your plan, especially regarding your incapacity planning. If your family knows what your wishes are and understands how they’re expressed in your health care documents, they will be much more prepared to carry out those wishes if the need arises. Telling your family about your preferences in the event of incapacity will save them from encountering an extra level of stress and confusion.
While it’s by no means necessary that you share the entirety of your estate plan with your family, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. Here are a few different ways you might choose to get your family acquainted with your plan.
Option #1: Share Everything with Everyone
Total transparency is certainly an option, but it might not be the ideal choice depending on your family dynamics. Consider what you would want to know if you were in your family members’ shoes. Too much information can be overwhelming, and could also lead to disputes between family members. However, too little information can cause misunderstandings, stress, and time delays when the time to act comes.
Option #2: Share the Basics with Everyone
Sometimes, sharing a summary rather than all the details is a simpler and more effective choice. If you’re going the summary route, talk about how your estate plan works or “flows” without including any information about the specific assets. For example, tell your family about the types of documents in your plan and the function each document serves so that your loved ones understand who will be in charge and the general manner of distribution and management of your assets. This might mean explaining the basics of how health care directives, powers of attorneys, and trusts & wills work.
Option #3: Share your List of Point People
Another route to take if you don’t want to divulge every detail of your plan is to simply share who you’ve listed in different roles in your plan. Let your family know who your personal representatives (“executors”), trustees and health care agents are so there are no surprises later on and so they know who to look to, when the time comes. This option will help prepare your family for the future without overwhelming them with the specifics. It can also help maintain a greater level of privacy for you.
Does your List Need a Checkup?
Take this opportunity to review the list of people who will serve for you in the various estate planning roles. If you were re-doing your plan today, would you still select that person as successor trustee? Personal Rep? Health care agent? Guardian for your children? Trustee for your children? Changes like these are fairly straightforward, but incredibly important to get done so your plan works as you want it to.
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If you have any questions or need to make changes, please reach out. We’re here to help!