What To Do When Your Kids Don’t Like Your Will
October 4, 2009
In an ideal world elderly parents and their adult children always get along, and when those parents pass away their children quietly and respectfully follow their wishes regarding the distribution of their estate. Unfortunately, we don’t always live in an ideal world, and inheritance and estate planning can often cause tension between parents and children before the parents have even reached retirement age!
What are your options when you know your kids won’t like what you’ve put in your will or trust? Many people choose to simply keep their wishes secreted away in a safety deposit box until they’ve passed away and then let everyone fight it out on their own; but this only puts off the bad feelings and can often cause lasting rifts among siblings. This strategy of secrecy also doesn’t address what happens if you become incapacitated and need one of your trustees or agents (in all likelihood one of your children) to take over your affairs.
A better option than secrecy may be to invite your children to your final meeting with your estate planning attorney. If the attorney is willing, and if you have good relationships with your children, this may be a good move. It could give you an opportunity to share your plans in the presence of a knowledgeable professional who is on your side; it also gives your children the opportunity to ask questions and get clear and immediate answers. More often than not tension about mom and dad’s estate plan stems from a lack of understanding, or a worry that mom or dad have been taken advantage of.
Such a meeting might be especially valuable where you have remarried and plan to provide for your new partner in your plan, before providing for children, either yours or your new spouse’s. A meeting might help explain your wishes. Ask your attorney for his or her view on this when you discuss your plan. While a family meeting is not for every familiy, still for many it can be reassuring, educational, and put everyone one the same page while moving into the future.
The Most Important Part of Your Estate Plan
April 7, 2009
What is the most important component of an estate plan? This is a question that comes up a lot in our practice, and as you might guess, different families will have different answers.
The Trust: Many families feel that this is the heart of the estate plan, and as such the most important part. As the document that outlines your wishes for distribution amounts, designates beneficiaries, nominates trustees, defines your incapacity and lists your assets—there is definitely reason to think the trust an important part of your plan.
Healthcare Directive: Some people are more concerned with how their end-of-life wishes are carried out than with the distribution of their estate. Those people consider the healthcare directive—the document that sets out your wishes for medical treatment, resuscitation, and healthcare agents—the most important component of an estate plan.
Guardianship Documents: Parents of young children are often more concerned with the guardianship portion of their estate plan than any other portion; they trust that as long as their children are in the hands of loving and responsible guardians all the rest is secondary.
The Will: Some believe the will to be the most important document. This is especially true of single people at the older or younger end of the spectrum, who feel they don’t have enough assets to require a trust.
Powers of Attorney: Very few people feel this document by itself is the “most important”, but most people understand that as the document that confers fiduciary powers on your chosen agents, the Power of Attorney has an importance of its own.
These components are all helpful and necessary pieces of an entire estate plan, but the most important part of your estate plan is something else entirely; something grantors and beneficiaries, rich and poor, young and old, attorneys and clients alike can all agree on—the most important part of your estate plan is creating it!