Is your estate plan a ticking time bomb for your family? If you haven't shared your estate plan with your family, here is why you should.

We've all seen the old movie cliche. Estranged family members are gathered for the reading of the will. The dour old lawyer puts on his glasses and reads the will or plays the video. The room explodes in gasps. There are stunned expressions on faces around the room. The black sheep of the family starts smirking; he or she has inherited everything. Folks, this should not be the way your family learns about your estate plan! 

Despite the cliche, many people still believe their estate planning is not their children's business. Aging parents raised by a different generation may prefer not to talk to their children about money and especially, about who will inherit it when they are gone.  For their part, adult children may fear that if they bring up this subject with their parents, they will be viewed as greedy and uncaring. 

However, not having this family conversation  can be a ticking time bomb! Here's why.

When parents are not forthcoming about estate planning, it creates fear and uncertainty. It is human nature to fill a void with a negative. Your family needs to know what will happen when you are gone. Let them know everything is taken care of. Explain not only the what but the why. Beginning these conversations with your parents or children can be hard. In blended families, the conversation can be even harder.

Here are three general suggestions for getting started.

- First, approach the matter little by little with family members and give everyone time to get used to the idea. Don't ambush your parents, children or siblings with the conversation. Remember, this is not an intervention.   

Second, keep the focus of the discussion positive and non-judgmental. If you are an adult child, your goal should be to find out how you can make sure your parents are protected and how you can support your parents' plan. Your goal should not be to change their plan or to make sure you get what you want out of it. If you think the plan does not adequately protect your parents, then make helpful suggestions as needed. For example, if your parents' estate plan does not protect them from long-term care problems, then let them know you are concerned about this.

- Third, if you are the parent, explain things that may be unclear and potentially hurtful. For example, explain why you want a particular person as your executor, trustee, financial agent, and health care agent. Don't be afraid to speak openly and ask your children for their support and assistance. The more people understand your plan and your wishes, the less likely it is there will be an estate challenge later. Lastly, don't assume bad motives on the part of your children or other family members just because someone asks a question. Try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt!

These suggestions may not be appropriate for every family. If your family is not harmonious or has other issues, consider consulting with a professional to get specific advice before starting the conversation. Never create a tense or potentially dangerous situation. The presence of neutral parties or professionals such as clergy, attorneys, financial advisors or CPAs at the discussion can defuse tension. 

For more information, contact Nancy Roberts at Law Office of Nancy L Roberts PLLC by completing the contact form on this page, calling us at 704-887-5242. 

DISCLAIMER: This is an advertisement and contains general educational information only. The information offered in this post does not constitute legal advice and reading the information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Nancy Roberts or the Law Office of Nancy L Roberts PLLC Firm. Before taking any action, you should always seek legal advice from an attorney you hire, who advises you based on your specific facts, circumstances, situation, and the appropriate governing law.


Nancy Roberts
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