Some of the most important work on your estate plan does not take place in the lawyer’s office but in the comfort of your own home. Many people are reluctant to discuss their estate planning, fearing that they will upset those closest to them. It is a hard topic to initiate, however, instead of thinking of it as a plan for the end of your life, consider it a financial continuation plan for your family. Your estate plan will include your will, insurance, and power of attorneys. All of these strategies have to be put in place to ensure your family will be taken care of in the event of your death and to avoid potential conflict between them. Having a sincere conversation about this plan with those closest to you will only benefit your loved ones in the long run.
How to Involve Family
Talking to your family about the inevitable reality of your death can seem daunting, but with a little planning it can end up being a productive and helpful conversation to have.
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 have not shared your rationale behind the decisions you have made, then you may have set the stage for conflict and infighting – possibly even a costly and lengthy lawsuit.
Decide Who Should Be Involved
It is a good idea to start by making a list of the people you want involved, whether that be your spouse, children, relatives, or other potential beneficiaries to your assets. Making certain that the right people are there will ensure that issues are dealt with swiftly when the time comes.
Involve Your Financial Advisor
While it is certainly not a mandatory step, at some point it could be beneficial for your financial advisors to meet your family and explain their roles. The estate planner could explain the current plan and the investment advisor can explain the portfolio and the strategies for it. These experts might explain things and answer questions better than you can, or family members might be willing to ask questions they would not ask a relative.
With your permission, your team can review the structure of your estate plan with your family, highlight its benefits, and make the meeting easier for you to conduct. In some cases, there might be questions from your family and your team can answer them, especially those of a technical nature.
Giving a quick overview of this information will ensure that your final wishes are understood and carried out as desired. Disclosing this information to your family before it is too late will prevent undue stress when the time comes for your family to settle your estate and distribute your assets.
It is a good idea to compile a list of topics that you want to discuss as this will keep you on track. A few things you may want to consider disclosing to your family are:
• The location of your will
• The identity of your powers of attorneys
• Location of your safe, if you have one
• The location of personal papers such as birth certificates, passports etc.
• A list of your investments, insurance policies and bank accounts
• A list of your financial advisors, lawyers, and accountants and include how to get in touch with them
The Bottom Line
Do not shy away from having meaningful conversations with your family about estate planning. Take the time to explain your plan at a positive, comfortable time in your life instead of waiting for a time that is potentially stressful and traumatic. It is also a good idea to arrange for your advisors to meet with your family so they have a familiar face they can contact if something were to happen to you.
We are here for you
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.
Hamed Murad, BA, CIM