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Discussing Your Estate Plan with Family

How much of your estate plan should your family know about?

Making your estate plans known can be helpful, but what you disclose is purely a matter of personal choice.

Why talk with heirs?

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Explaining your intentions may reduce the likelihood of future tensions, or even litigation.

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Most people don’t want to share the exact amount children can expect to inherit. But there can be strong business and family reasons for letting the next generation understand the plans you’ve made.

If you have children from a prior marriage, it could be wise to have conversations with your spouse or partner and children about what they should expect. Even if you don’t provide full details or exact monetary amounts, explaining your intentions can help to reduce the likelihood of future tensions, or even litigation.

Similarly, sharing intentions can be a good approach when you’re planning to treat beneficiaries differently. For example, you might leave one adult child his or her inheritance outright and put another’s into a trust. In cases like these, it can help to say, “I felt strongly that it was in your best interest.”

Whether or not you decide to discuss plans with your family, it’s important that your executor or successor trustee knows who your lawyer, financial advisor, banker, and other advisors are—and where to find your important financial information and documents.

Proceed with care

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Talk to your lawyer or someone experienced in trusts before you move forward.

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Rather than discussing estate plans in a family meeting, you may be better off doing it in a series of one-on-one conversations. But remember, either path could spark controversy, so talk to your lawyer or someone who has experience in administering trusts before you move forward. Consider reaching out to an experienced counselor who can help you navigate complex family and emotional issues.

Don’t delay

Because people think estate planning is all about death and inheritance, it tends to get put off. But estate planning is also about controlling what happens to your assets if you can’t speak for yourself, which can result from a sudden illness or accident.

If your children have children of their own, it’s also important for your children to make arrangements for your grandchildren’s financial, emotional, and physical care should anything happen to your children.

To help your children get started sooner rather than later, consider introducing them to the team that helped create your estate plan, such as your attorney, financial advisor, and CPA.

Next steps

  • Contact a financial advisor for referrals to local estate planning attorneys.
  • Consider consulting your attorney for advice on what to, and what not to, talk about with family.
  • Prepare yourself for potential conflicts that may arise as a result.

Trust services available through banking and trust affiliates in addition to non-affiliated companies of Wells Fargo Advisors. Wells Fargo Advisors and its affiliates do not provide legal or tax advice. Any estate plan should be reviewed by an attorney who specializes in estate planning and is licensed to practice law in your state.