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The Law Offices of Keane Thomas & Pinnacoli - Stuart, Florida Estate Planning Attorney

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Stephen A. Pinnacoli
Stephen A. Pinnacoli

Have You had the Estate Planning Talk with Your Adult Children?

May 22, 2024
Estate planning can be a sensitive topic for families to talk about. Here's how to get past the awkwardness and discuss estate planning with your family.

It’s easier to move a difficult matter forward when you have a plan, which is true when talking about estate planning with your family. Getting into the conversation can sometimes feel awkward. However, it’s best for all concerned to have open and honest discussions, according to a recent article, “How to Discuss Estate Planning with Your Family,” from Kiplinger.

If you have an estate plan, including a last will and testament, advanced care directive, living will, HIPAA release forms and other estate planning documents, make sure your family knows what documents you have prepared and where they are. Show them where your legal and financial records are kept, whether on your computer or filing cabinet.

Consider a kind of estate planning “boot camp” with the appropriate family members. They may not understand what a will does, how a trust works, etc. The more information they have about financial and legal matters, the better decisions they can make.

Connect family members with your advisors, including your estate planning attorney, financial advisor and CPA, so that they can work together after your passing.

How well do you expect family members to respond to this conversation? You know your family best, so be prepared—the daughter is prone to tears, and the son makes sarcastic comments—they will not suddenly become different people when the topic is estate planning.

The loss of a parent is a highly emotional time, and grief doesn’t always bring out the best in people. If you left a large inheritance and your children weren’t expecting it, will they know what to do? Or, if they expected a large inheritance and you decided to donate most of your wealth to charity, would they become embroiled in a legal battle with an organization that meant a lot to you? Having these difficult discussions in advance is better than leaving a legacy of surprise for loved ones.

If your children will be receiving different kinds of inheritance from you based on their individual circumstances, it is a great kindness to talk with them in advance about your reasoning. They may understand, or they may not. However, you may be able to prevent resentment and possibly litigation if they have an opportunity to learn about it from you directly while you are still living and when they can still ask questions.

Another topic requiring discussion is who you name to serve as personal representative. It may not be the oldest sibling, but it shouldn’t be the one who isn’t able to manage money or responsibilities. In some cases, a professional or family friend is better suited to serve as executor. Talk with your children about this decision to prevent any resentment between them.

These are not easy conversations, and they should be presented as ongoing discussions, so siblings or other family members feel they are included and respected. Your legacy and your family deserve as much.

Reference: Kiplinger (March 23, 2024) “How to Discuss Estate Planning with Your Family”

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