New Year Estate Planning Goal: Tell Your Kids You Have a Plan

Last year, you made the hard decisions: you created an estate plan, signed your documents, went to banks and funded your plan, and even created a business succession plan. Congratulations! You’ve finished your estate planning! You’re done!

But are you, really?

Who knows you’ve got a plan? Have you explained your planning to your family? Will they understand how your plan will work and what they may need to do if you become ill or when you die? Will they wonder why you made certain decisions?

If not, you should tell them. One way is by holding a family meeting.

Why, you ask?

  • Having a well-run family meeting in which you explain your plans will help prevent misunderstandings and confusion in the future; this is an important benefit for executing a comprehensive plan in the first place.
  • If necessary, involve your attorney and financial advisor. They can explain how your plan works and, if necessary, why key decisions were made. They will be able to answer family members’ questions on the spot.

Setting the Agenda

The agenda for the meeting should cover your objectives, purposes, plans, and expected outcomes. It’s important to make a list of the topics you want to cover. That way, if the meeting becomes emotional, you don’t forget something important.

Know that no specific financial information or values of assets needs to be disclosed. This meeting should be a general explanation of what you have planned and why, in order to prepare family members for what they can expect and may need to do if you become disabled or die. Allow for and encourage questions and discussion.

What You Need to Know

Expect there to be some anxiety as the meeting begins, for these are often sensitive issues. You may find additional challenges if you have a blended family. Or there may be a child that you do not feel is financially ready to handle an inheritance. Putting these issues out in the open can be difficult at first, but it often leads to greater understanding and acceptance. It can also prevent future fights and costly litigation.

When holding the meeting, consider the following:

  • Select an appropriate place. A crowded restaurant is not suitable for a serious discussion. The room should encourage discussion but also convey the seriousness of the meeting. Your attorney or financial advisor will probably have access to a meeting room. A family room that accommodates everyone also can work.
  • Select a date that is convenient for everyone. A traditional family gathering time, like the Thanksgiving weekend, may be convenient, but be mindful that conducting the meeting before the actual holiday may spoil an important family gathering if your situation involves difficult topics.
  • Let everyone know in advance that the meeting is scheduled to begin and end at specific times in order to put boundaries on the agenda. A couple of hours should be plenty of time to cover everything.
  • Limit the meeting to adults. Make arrangements for the care of young children so you have the parents’ full attention.

Happy New Year! And remember, should you have questions on your estate or business, we’re here to help.