You may think that you have the best-crafted estate plan that you can have. However, if your children don’t learn about it until your death, and are surprised by it, you may unintentionally trigger resentment and fighting that my last throughout their lifetimes.
Fighting often costs money, which adds an additional burden.
For example, if you are giving one child the family farm and the other child the proceeds of a hefty life insurance policy, explain to your children now why you set your estate plan up that way. (As an extra precaution, it may be wise to repeat the explanation in a letter to your children that they’ll find when they read your Will after your death.)
Although the value of the life insurance proceeds and the family farm might have been roughly equal initially, the valuations could be considerably out of balance by the time of your death. And, the child who received the family farm may have preferred cash rather than a business to manage or sell. Or, maybe the child with the cash would have preferred the family farm. In the end, it’s your decision as to who gets what. But it’s helpful for your children to hear your reasoning.
Plans for significant charitable contributions could also be discussed with your children to manage their expectations.
Personal property – i.e. your stuff – is a leading cause of family disputes. It is the emotional value rather than monetary value that typically comes into play here. So, to the extent possible, it may be helpful to get some agreement during your lifetime as to what will happen to the most desired items of your stuff. The items that they most covet may be significantly different than what you think they’ll want.
It’s also helpful if your children have some knowledge about the amount and type of your assets so that they can help you shepherd those assets as you age and possibly need help. What assets do you have available to pay for any long-term care needs? Your children can best help you manage your assets to provide for long-term care if they are kept at least loosely in the loop as to what your financial picture looks like from year to year.
Sometimes some forthright family conversations go a long way towards keeping family harmony.
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Bonnie Wittenburg, Wittenburg Law Office, PLLC, 601 Carlson Parkway, Suite 1050, Minnetonka, MN 55305 952-649-9771 firstname.lastname@example.org www.bwittenburglaw.com