It’s not uncommon for parents to modify their first estate plans when their children become adults. Actually, its imperative that major changes (like minors becoming adults) send folks back to the estate planning attorney for some important conversations. At that point, many parents’ estate planning is designed to help efficiently transfer assets to the surviving spouse and ultimately to the adult children. However, this process can encounter a number of hiccups and headaches.
Forbes’ recent article entitled “Three Steps To Estate Planning Without The Family Friction” explains that there are a number of reasons for sibling animosity in the inheritance process. The article says that frequently there are issues that stem from a lack of communication between siblings, which causes doubts as to how things are being done. In addition, siblings may not agree if and how property should be sold and maintained. To help avoid these problems, use this three-step process for estate planning.
Work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Hire an estate attorney who has many years of working in this practice area. This will mean that they’ve seen—and more importantly—resolved every type of family conflict and problem that can arise in the estate planning process. That’s the know-how that you’re really paying for, in addition to his or her legal expertise in wills and trusts.
Create a financial overview. This will help your beneficiaries see what you own. A financial overview can simplify the inheritance process for your trustees and personal representative, and it can help to serve as the foundation to frankly communicate with future beneficiaries to reduce any lingering doubts or questions that they may have, when they’re not in the loop.
Your inventory should at least include the following items:
- A list of all assets, liabilities and insurance policies you have and their beneficiaries
- Contact information for all financial, insurance and legal professionals with whom you partner;
- Access information for any websites your beneficiaries may need for your online accounts; and
- A legacy letter that discusses non-financial items for your children.
Have Appropriate Conversations With Your Children. Next, have fairly regular conversations with your children about the important goals you have with your estate plan and how they are involved. Depending upon their age (and yours), children may not need to know specific information or the value of the assets. Some topics for this meeting include:
- The basics of your estate intentions
- Verify that a trusted person knows the location of your important estate documents
- State who your executor and other involved people will be and your rationale
- Make certain that all parties value communication and transparency during this process; and
- Discuss non-financial legacy items that are important for you to give to your children.
This three-step process can help keep your children’s relationships intact after you are gone. Hiring an experienced estate planning attorney, creating a clear financial overview and communicating what’s important to you are critical steps in helping to keep your family together.
Reference: Forbes (July 2, 2020) “Three Steps To Estate Planning Without The Family Friction”
Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Inheritance, Asset Protection, Executor, Legacy Letter, Letter of Last Instruction