Discussing Your Estate Plan with your Children

Is ‘inheritance talk’ a taboo holiday topic?

The holidays are fast approaching and so is the end of yet another year.  Family traditions and gatherings are abounding during the holidays.  For many, these are times to gather with family members, enjoy each other’s company – talk about the ‘old days’ as well as catch up on current events and of course, feast on holiday cuisine.  While, obviously, not the cheeriest of holiday topics – a recent Forbes article – “Seven Reasons To Tell Your Kids What They Will (Or Won’t) Inherit” – suggests that the holidays may also be a good time to discuss inheritance and your final wishes with your adult children.  These discussions may prevent future family feuds or other issues from arising.

The seven reasons include:

1.                 Steer clear of any ‘bombshells’ – Informing family members, why, for example, you chose your daughter as executor of your estate may avoid posthumous surprises.

2.                 Tweak, if so desired – Although, not mandatory, by any means – sometimes these discussions may shed new light on your intentions and you are able to make changes to your estate plan accordingly.  One example is opting to leave one of your children more of an inheritance for whatever reason (e.g., because he or she has more children than your other offspring) – than your other children, however that child prefers to receive the same share as his or her brothers and sisters.

3.                 Discuss lifetime gifts and tax issues – There may be tax advantages to leave lifetime gifts before dying rather than encountering greater estate taxes afterwards.

4.                 Adjust expectations – Some parents may have already left their children lifetime gifts – letting your children know whether or not there will be an additional inheritance may adjust any expectations.

5.                 Present your rationale – By explaining to your family your wishes and reasoning now – it may clarify any questions, which may in turn avoid any future conflict amongst siblings.

6.                 Identify disclaimants – Often, for tax purposes, individuals want to be “disclaimed” – meaning they want to decline an inheritance.

7.                 Advance peace within the family – The promotion of “family harmony” is so important to all parents.  Different approaches work better with different families.  For example, it may be advantageous to discuss your wishes first with your family members individually and then as a group, or have a “series” of discussions with the family instead of talking about everything at once.

It is important to note that – there is no requirement to disclose the contents of your estate plan to anyone.  There is no guarantee that things will go swimmingly if you offer up information to your loved ones regarding your final gifts to them.  However, the seven reasons noted above stress the importance of creating clarity with your family about your estate plan and ultimately avoiding surprises which may lead to bitterness within the family.

California Estate Planning

The Law Office of Mark Abell is experienced in all estate planning aspects.  Our goal is to tailor your estate plan to suit your needs.  If you want to discuss or have questions regarding your personal estate plan, contact California estate planning attorney, Mark Abell, today at 310-489-0707 or mark@trustabell.com.