Now That’s Awkward!

MP900448491An awkward part of estate planning is telling your kids how much — or how little — they'll get. Here's how a financial planner can help. For clients, one of the most stressful aspects of estate planning — already an emotionally difficult process — is the prospect of telling heirs what they plan to do with their assets. Because conversations about legacy plans can be terribly difficult, clients may avoid them at all costs — and the costs can indeed be substantial.

A recent Time article, titled "The Hardest Part of Making a Will: Telling Your Kids What’s in It" lists a few ideas to help you overcome the challenges of having these important conversations.

Here are the suggestions Time offers, as taken from the original article:

Communication. Think about your financial values in a larger context. Sometimes, estate plans will reflect lifelong values like charitable giving or the desire to provide for family first. If your children know your values, there is a good chance they will have an idea of what to expect from your estate.

Evaluate your children’s money skills. Children do not all have the same skills, knowledge, and attitudes about money. Children who will inherit large amounts of money need discussions about how to manage money and to be responsible.

Like one kid better? If you are not planning to treat all of your children “equally”—regardless of the reasons—you should share that information well in advance. Tell it privately to each child. You can have a lot of reasons to treat children differently in an estate plan; however, it is not a great idea to figure out the details when the will is probated. If you and your children can talk about the will's provisions and your reasoning for them ahead of time, there is less chance of conflict between siblings after the parents have passed. Do not allow your children to assume they are getting more than is really the case. If you do not tell them, you may avoid issues now, but there could be bigger troubles and resentment after your death.

Prepare your children for large or unexpected inheritances. Some individuals are shocked to get legacies much larger than expected from the lifestyles their parents led. An estate planning attorney may propose strategies that will help heirs learn more about both the financial and the emotional aspects of managing inherited wealth. An estate planning attorney may also suggest that parents look at options, such as giving more to the children during their lifetime, which would decrease the effect of a sudden inheritance.

Acknowledge those fears. Although they are not typically expressed, the biggest reason for not discussing estate plans with family members may be fear. Parents may think that their children will be angry or disappointed, or expect too much and be resentful of other heirs.

Communication is so important. It can ease some of the pain and anxiety in the decisions that parents make now and the aftermath when the will is probated. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can also be a worthwhile investment toward achieving this goal.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: Time (October 7, 2014) "The Hardest Part of Making a Will: Telling Your Kids What’s in It"

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