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What should you tell your kids about your estate plan?

For many people, it is uncomfortable or taboo to talk about money or death. It may be these reasons that prompt many people to keep the details of their estate plans secret.

However, there can be consequences when someone doesn’t talk about their wishes. For example, unexpected details in an estate plan could cause divide in the family or even litigation that could result in certain estate planning documents being invalidated.

Whether or not you decide to talk to your family about your estate plan is up to you. It can be a very personal decision. However, there are some benefits to consider.

Do the key players know their roles?

If you have used your estate plan to appoint certain family members to certain positions, it can be important that they know what is expected of them and are willing to take on those responsibilities.

For example, the executor of your estate must understand their responsibilities after you die. They may also need to know where they can find a copy of your will.

It can also be beneficial for other family members to understand who the key players of your estate plan are. This can prevent confusion, arguments and hard feelings later on.

Do you need to set the record straight?

If you suspect your family members might expect to inherit more than what you plan to leave for them, it may be prudent to set the record straight. You do not need to feel obligated to tell them exactly how much they may receive, but you can help dispel any misbeliefs or misunderstandings they may have.

This can help prevent arguments and litigation. However, it can also help your loved ones plan realistically for their own futures.

Does your estate plan include some unexpected measures?

If you plan to disinherit someone, divide your property unequally or treat one person's inheritance differently, this may also merit an explanation. For example, if you are disinheriting your son because of his drinking problem, your honesty could urge him to seek the help he needs. If you are putting your daughter’s inheritance in a trust because she has not been wise with her money, it may inspire her to use her assets more carefully.

Sometimes when an estate plan treats one person differently, that person ends up feeling very hurt. They may even come to believe that the deceased did not love them the way others were loved. This is rarely the intention of such measures.

Conversations like these can be difficult, but by having them now, you can take the time to explain to your loved ones what your values are and why you made the decisions you did. It also allows your loved ones the opportunity to voice their concerns.

Family conversations about estate plans can prevent surprises, hurt feelings, family rifts and even litigation. However, it is up to you to decide what is best in your situation.

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