If you’re preparing to put your estate plan in place, you may be considering doing so without discussing it with your adult children. It’s understandable that you want to avoid awkward conversations about how much each one is inheriting and who’s getting which family heirlooms.
However, by discussing your estate plan — at least the broad strokes of it — now, you can save your children and other loved ones from angry, hurt feelings and possibly even legal battles after you’re gone.
One attorney says he’s seen more than his share of family feuds among siblings when they learn the details of a parent’s estate plan after they’re gone. While the battles generally involve assets, they’re more about what those assets represent. He says, “Money is how we keep score of who’s important in the fight for the intangibles of love, approval and primordial survival.”
Following are some tips for preventing battles that can tear family members apart at a time when they most need each other.
Give your kids the basics of your estate plan
They don’t need precise dollar amounts. However, it’s helpful if they know whether to expect thousands or millions of dollars. Some people have no idea how much (or how little) their parents have.
Divide your estate equally among your children
Often parents leave less to their more successful kids and more to those who need some financial help. While that might seem fair, it can cause anger and resentment. Maybe there are other ways you can provide a boost to a child who needs some financial help while you’re still around.
Discuss the distribution of family heirlooms
This is one area where input from your children may be appropriate. Do any of them feel strongly about a particular piece of jewelry, artwork or memento? Heirlooms don’t need to have monetary value to have great sentimental value.
Choose your executor carefully
It might seem logical to choose your oldest child or the one with skills that lend themselves to the job. However, if you have multiple adult children, choosing one to oversee the estate and distribution of assets can cause complications. One attorney suggests having all siblings involved in some way in the estate administration.
Your Tennessee estate planning attorney can offer advice as you make these and other decisions and as you prepare to sit down with your family to share your plans.