A comprehensive and well-thought-out estate plan doesn’t just benefit the person who’s developing the plan. It also benefits their family. In fact, you could argue that estate planning is more for the benefit of those who will be left behind. With careful planning and good communication, you can reduce the work, conflict and uncertainty that you’re loved ones will have to deal with after your death.
If you have children, it’s particularly important to try not to do something — or neglect to do something — that will create a rift in their relationships when they need each other the most. Even siblings who typically get along can become estranged over money and other issues surrounding their parents’ death.
Of course, not having an estate plan at all — not even a will — can also cause chaos in the family. Even if siblings aren’t fighting over who gets what, if you die without a will, your children will have to spend time (and money) dealing with the court.
Another serious mistake that many parents make is not communicating what’s in their estate plan to their children. They may not want to tell one child that their sibling is getting more because they may be less self-sufficient or perhaps because they helped out their parent more as they got older, for example. However, it’s better to explain your reasoning to your children than to have them face unwelcome surprises that just leave them resenting their siblings or perhaps believing that you were manipulated.
You don’t have to provide your children with precise dollar amounts. However, it’s a good idea to tell them if you’re doing something that might be unexpected or that treats siblings differently from one another.
If you have more than one child, it’s often best not to name one of them as the executor of your estate. Too often, siblings feel that the one chosen as executor is abusing their power or taking things not intended for them. If you can find another person whom you trust to handle things efficiently and fairly, that may be best for everyone.
As you work on your estate plan with your attorney, they can help you determine what matters you should discuss with your children and perhaps assist you in finding the best way to broach uncomfortable topics.