How are you going with your estate planning conversations in the New Year? Is it one of your resolutions to get a handle on your legal documents? Let us make it easier by guiding you through the necessary estate planning conversations you need to have this year.
Having your estate planning done is an excellent thing, but talking about it with your loved ones is even better. Estate planning conversations are not just necessary to have with those professionals equipped for the task but also your family. Not communicating your plans can be disastrous.
“How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things but how well we are understood.” Andy Gove
Communicating anything to someone else requires more than just the giving of information. Good communication is not just telling somebody whatever it is you’re trying to communicate but also helping them to understand what you’re communicating. Communication is only effective when it is delivered, received and understood. And communication is essential to healthy relationships. Perhaps you can start to see why estate planning conversations are so crucial.
The aim of good estate planning is that our arrangements will benefit others when we die – not cause them conflict and angst. Having experienced professionals advise us on good planning strategies is one thing but this shouldn’t replace also having conversations with our loved ones about our end-of-life plans. Aside from helping them to prepare for our wishes they may also have some wise input from a that will improve the plans we may already have in place.
Our reluctance in talking about death is understandable. Even discussing money matters is often considered taboo in many families. We don’t wish to think about life without our loved ones. But death is inevitable and conflict because of lack of communication doesn’t need to be. Uncomfortable estate planning conversations now are far more desirable than a protracted court battled after your death.
- 92% of surveyed parents expect one of their children to be the executor of their estate, while 27% of the kids identified as filling this role didn’t know this.
- Three out of 10 families surveyed disagreed whether or not the children knew where to find important family documents, such as the will.
- 69% of surveyed parents said they had detailed conversations with their children about wills and estate planning, but more than half (52%) of kids said they haven’t had those discussions.
That’s still a lot of lack of communication, even in families where the parents have thoughtfully planned their end-of-life wishes. Those who haven’t done their estate planning really don’t have anything to communicate except that very idea. Having estate planning conversations means that not only will your wishes for your estate be carried out, but your family will be more satisfied with the outcome.
Robert Newbold and his brother have been in a dispute with their stepfather over his mother’s estate when she died without a will. This could easily have been avoided if there had been estate planning conversations prior to her death, because each brother would have understood their mother’s wishes. For those parents who do write their wills, disputes can be avoided if they discuss the contents of their will. Bryan Mitchell, an Accredited Specialist in Succession Law, says to clients who are bent on devaluing one child’s share to favour another: “I bluntly ask them if they want to be remembered by the hand grenade they’re about to drop on their family. I tell them the hand grenade will go off and cause untold damage to family relationships. Just because it won’t mean anything to them because they’ll be dead doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. A destroyed family is going to be their only legacy.”
Five Reasons To Have Estate Planning Conversations
Here are five reasons why you should communicate your estate plans to your family before you die.
- Manage expectations. Explaining why one child has been chosen as executor over another will help them to understand why. Having an explanation – even one they may not agree with – shows that you have done this thoughtfully and purposefully.
- Remove any surprises. Having warning about the contents of your will and how your estate will be left can go a long way in preventing shock and resentment. People don’t usually behave as best they can when they are taken by surprise. If you’re doing something you think may be unexpected by your beneficiaries then now is a good time to give them your reasons.
- Don’t make assumptions. Discuss with your family whether they have any special requests. You loved your holiday house and are assuming that your eldest child will gladly take on the responsibility of maintaining it, but it may be a millstone for them.
- Explain unequal distributions. It may be that you helped one child out more financially before your death and so see it as an act of fairness to give more to the other through your estate. Actually discussing this with your family will ensure they understand your reasons for dividing your estate in the way you have.
To avoid a battle over your estate and to ensure that your death doesn’t spark conflict in the family, you must communicate your estate planning to your loved ones. Have your estate planning conversations today – no matter how uncomfortable! – instead of putting it off.
If you would like to speak to one of our experienced estate lawyers please contact us today! We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation and can help you with any of your estate planning queries.