As the holidays approach, many people gather with their loved ones and take some time out of the year together. As you get together, it is a great time and perhaps a rare opportunity to discuss your estate plan while everyone is together.
Many families never talk about finances before the whole family becomes involved in decision making. And I can understand that money can be a very personal issue. So I respect not sharing all of the details or amounts, but having everyone know the general plan can forestall some arguments. A few of the things I would suggest sharing:
Who’s making decisions – When the times comes for someone to act on your behalf, it’s easier for everyone if they already know who will be making those decisions. They’ll know why the person was selected and they are more likely to honor your wishes. If they don’t like it or are upset with not being chosen it also gives them a chance to object to the right people and avoid blaming the person you’ve chosen.
How the plan works – Your loved ones should know if you have a trust, beneficiary deeds, or just an idea of how your plan works. This will set reasonable expectations for how much people will need to be involved and how long things will take. Part of my job is trying to make sure a client understands how their own plan works, but sometimes trying to explain your own plan can be difficult, so it’s also nice to include your family as you’re planning so things are fresh.
Who to contact – Often times clients want me to meet their family, so their family has a contact for questions when they need one. And I’m happy to do so. It also gives me an opportunity to explain the plan if my clients desire. However, the legal side often isn’t extremely urgent when something happens. A person’s financial advisor and CPA really should be the first phone call so tax problems can be avoided by moving money improperly.
Stuff – Personal property, or the stuff inside your home, doesn’t have a title and because of that ownership can be problematic. It’s this stuff that can cause problems. If a person wants something, there is very little, aside from honesty, to prevent them from taking it. However, if everyone involved has clear expectations then there’s more accountability if there are problems.
By taking the time to discuss your estate plan, your loved ones can be a little more prepared for a time that will never be easy. So, what better opportunity to talk than now while everyone is together?