Should You Discuss Your Estate Plan With Your Children?

There are pros and cons to whether you do or don’t discuss your estate plan with your children, but in many situations it is better that you do so.

It can be a hard conversation to start.  If you, as parents, initiate the discussion, your children may resist because they don’t want to think about your eventual death. If your children initiate the conversation, you may believe that their primary interest in you is how much they might inherit.

In reality, however, you have a lot more to talk about. 

Informing your children that you have an estate plan lets them know that you’ve thought about what you need to do to take care of yourselves financially and physically. In sum, you are planning not to become their burden.

Creation of an estate plan includes a snapshot assessment of your financial situation. An understanding of your financial picture and outlook by your estate planning lawyer and financial advisor can help prepare you for what’s ahead.  This preparation is good for your peace of mind, but also for the peace of mind of your children who feel responsible for your care in your old age.

Creation of an estate plan may also consider your physical health outlook. A Minnesota Health Care Directive grants your hand-picked agent the power to make decisions about your body on your behalf when you cannot speak for yourself. You can also include provisions in your Health Care Directive regarding your desires for cremation vs. burial, and your wishes regarding organ donation.

The discussion around the establishment of an estate plan may also outline your wishes for long-term care, should you need it.  You may also write down your wishes for any funeral or memorial service. Consider creating a list of your assets, account numbers, passwords and account locations so that your survivors can more easily settle your estate.

Another advantage of having a discussion with your children is that the conversation may reveal lapses in your estate plan. How long has it been since your estate plan was last reviewed? Laws, tax rules, your financial and your physical situations change over time. Was the trust that you created “funded”? Are all your assets still in your individual names or jointly held?

Consideration for “equal” versus “fair” for your children’s inheritance is a topic for another day. However, if your plans call for your children to inherit other than strictly “equally” on a dollar-and-cents basis, you should consider explaining your reasoning to your children while you are still alive. In that manner, you’ll be around to answer their unanticipated questions or reactions to your plan. If your children understand your intentions, fights after your death may be avoided. Children tend to equate equal dollars with equal love. Therefore, any inheritance plan that strays from pure equality can trigger anger and hurt feelings for decades unless you provide your children with a well-reasoned explanation.

Of course, a downside to discussing your estate plan with your children is that they may beg you to change it.  But perhaps it’s better for the future well-being of your entire family to deal with any inheritance issues while you’re still competent to do so.

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Disclaimer: This Blog is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. If you have questions, please seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in the state where you live. Wittenburg Law does not expressly or implicitly warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the Blog’s contents. An attorney-client relationship is not formed by reading this Blog. If you are interested in Wittenburg Law’s representation of you, you must contact Wittenburg Law for a determination of whether your matter is one for which Wittenburg Law is willing and able to accept representation of you.

Bonnie Wittenburg, Wittenburg Law Office, PLLC, 601 Carlson Parkway, Suite 1050, Minnetonka, MN 55305  952-649-9771  www.bwittenburglaw.com  bonnie@bwittenburglaw.com