Most people view making an estate plan as a private activity between a lawyer and a client. There is a veil of confidentiality that allows one to keep their plan guarded and for their secrets to be taken to the grave. However, this may not be the best course of action, as one may want to include their children or loved ones in on their estate plan.
There are many reasons to include your children or other potential heirs in your estate plan. The inclusion could range from the children or loved ones actually meeting with the attorney or being present while making the plan so that the attorney can explain everything in plain English, or just simply disclosing the contents of a trust before you die. Many families think that it is impolite or taboo to talk about money or their finances with their children. This goes back to long-held traditions that may go back generations. Talking about finances and keeping things open may work more in the favor of the family than keeping silent.
Other families think that talking about their money or possible inheritances is simply none of their children’s business. These family members think the children can find out what they are getting when they die—and not a second before. While this privacy approach might work well for parents while they are alive, it may cause problems for children down the road when it is time to receive their inheritance. When there are surprises about uneven inheritances or misconceptions about how much inheritance there actually is, it can be a good idea to include children in the estate plan to achieve long-term family goals and planning. These goals can best be achieved through communication and not through secrecy.
Communicating about what one wants a child or loved one to actually do with the money can also be an important step in making an estate plan. If a parent wants some of their money to go to a grandchild’s college education or first house and not to a boat or Miami Beach vacation, then it would be beneficial to actually sit that child down and tell them of the plans and goals. Otherwise the inherited money is seen the same as lottery winnings or a free gift and will be spent accordingly. Communication ahead of time prevents the potential for problems down the road in the form of estate litigation and family fighting and maintains the vision for a long-term family plan.
Randall A. Denha, Esq., Denha & Associates, PLLC, is licensed to practice law throughout the state of Michigan and his offices are also licensed to practice in the state of Florida. The Denha & Associates, PLLC Law Firm practices in the areas of estate planning, business succession planning, asset protection planning, probate, business, and tax law. For further information, visit www.denhalaw.com or call (248) 265-4100.