Family Involvement Can  Be Good Business


Jennifer Short, JD Dec. 26, 2023

When you decide to create a comprehensive estate plan, there are many things to consider. One is whether to tell your loved ones about your plan and how much information to share with them. Estate planning can be a complex and sensitive matter. So, your choice may depend on your unique relationships with loved ones and your family dynamics.

Sharing your estate plan with your loved ones can compromise the privacy of your financial and personal information. Therefore, some people prefer to keep these matters private. This is especially true when it comes to distributions of significant amounts of money or property. There are both advantages and disadvantages to revealing information in your estate plan. You can choose to communicate specific details or offer a broader explanation to everyone involved.

Advantages of Sharing Your Estate Planning Details

Everyone Knows What to Expect

Estate planning deals with personal, family-specific situations. By discussing it with your family, you can ensure that your loved ones are aware of how you have structured things. Discussing matters up front will also give notice about who will be in charge if you cannot handle your affairs or when you die. This transparency can reduce confusion and conflict that can lead to disputes, disagreements, and even legal challenges later. Your loved ones will have the advantage of being prepared for what is to come.

Loved Ones Understand Your Wishes

Your estate planning documents, including your will, trust, and advance directives, can sometimes be complex. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you make sure your documents are clear. When your loved ones know your wishes, there is less room for misinterpretation of your intentions. This is critical, especially in medical emergencies when decisions must be made quickly.

By sharing your intentions, you can explain your perspective and the reasoning behind your decisions. For example, your family may have questions about why you chose certain beneficiaries, trustees, or executors. This personal touch can help your loved ones appreciate the thought you have put into your estate plan.

By communicating your rationale behind distributing assets in a particular way, you can reduce resentment and promote understanding. This can be particularly important if your plan includes provisions that may seem unequal at first glance. If a problem arises, you may be able to find resolutions and compromises in advance.

If you happen to have beneficiaries with special needs or specific financial requirements, sharing your estate plan ensures that your loved ones are aware of their responsibilities in caring for these people and following your instructions.

You also have the chance to convey your values, beliefs, and objectives regarding your estate. This can be particularly important if your estate plan includes charitable contributions, specific bequests, or arrangements that reflect deeply held principles.

Administration Goes Smoothly

When your loved ones are informed about your estate plan in advance, they may be more likely to accept your wishes, cooperate during the administration, and make the entire process more efficient. They will know who to contact and what to do. Being aware of the details reduces delays during the probate process. For example, it will be easier for your trusted decision-makers to identify property and beneficiaries, and allocate responsibilities. They will already know their roles, which will minimize uncertainty and allow them to step in without hesitation. Your loved ones should also have contact information for your attorney, financial advisor, and other professionals who may need to be involved.

Loved Ones Can Ask Questions

When you discuss your estate plan with your loved ones it can create an environment of openness and trust. This can extend beyond just estate planning matters. Your loved ones may have questions or concerns, and this is the best time to address them. Together, you can work to find solutions that align with your wishes and address their needs.

You also have an opportunity to educate your family members about your finances. This knowledge can empower them to be better prepared for their own financial futures. This can offer an additional layer of protection, knowing that your loved ones are proactively protecting themselves as well.

During your conversations with loved ones, new ideas may come up. You may realize that important details or beneficiaries were accidentally left out of your estate plan. Sharing your plan allows you to address any oversights and make necessary adjustments now.

Disadvantages to Sharing Your Estate Planning Goals

Estate Plans Are Not Set in Stone

In most cases, you have the legal right to change or update estate planning documents whenever you like. For example, you may want to update your will when new babies are born, or as your children age into adulthood. Sharing your plan with loved ones now might create expectations, leading to confusion if you make changes later on that affect their inheritance. This can result in temporary disputes and strained relationships.

If you choose to discuss your current estate plan and make changes in the future, ensure the appropriate people are updated on the changes. Loved ones who are unaware can be caught off guard, creating conflicts during the administration phase.

Emotions and Disappointments

When a loved one is upset about the way you have structured your plan, their unhappiness can create emotional strain between you.

In some cases, sharing an estate plan can bring unresolved issues to the surface. When family dynamics are complex or strained, it can exacerbate the situation. Loved ones may have differing opinions about your choices, and these conflicts require difficult conversations to work through.

You can work with a qualified estate planning attorney or mediator to help guide productive discussions among your loved ones. Remember, in the end, this is your estate plan and you have the final say in regards to what happens with your money.

Manipulation Tactics

Your loved ones may express their opinions or desires regarding your estate plan and try to pressure you to make changes. While it might be important to you that you consider their input, it can be tough to balance their wishes with your own, especially if you have specific reasons for your chosen plan.

They may use guilt, emotional appeals, or even threaten to cut ties with you if you do not modify your estate plan for them.

Attempts to manipulate your estate planning decisions can challenge your autonomy and the principles behind your estate planning goals. Your estate plan should reflect your own values and wishes, and you should make decisions based on what you believe is fair. Stand firm in your decisions and maintain the integrity of your estate plan.

Boundaries must be set with your loved ones to protect your own wishes and well-being. If you are influenced by emotional manipulation, it can lead to regrets and raise complex legal and ethical issues with the validity of your legal documents. It may be necessary to consult with an attorney or mediator to determine the best course of action.

Doing What Is Best for You and Your Loved Ones

Sharing your estate planning details with loved ones can offer several advantages, including transparency and a smoother transition when you die or become incapacitated. However, there are potential downsides, including possible disagreements between family members and pressure to change your plan. The decision to share your estate plan should be made carefully, taking into account your specific objectives and family dynamics.

We can help ensure that your plan aligns with your goals and act as a mediator between your loved ones. Contact our office today at 614-389-9711.