Once you have your estate plan finished, you may start thinking about sharing – or not sharing — the details of that plan with your loved ones. It is a very personal decision and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to look at the issue. There are, however, advantages and disadvantages to both choices. The Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law help you decide whether to discuss the details of your estate plan or keep the details private.
Discussing the Details of Your Estate Plan
Discussing the details of your estate plan — particularly those details that relate to how your estate assets are to be distributed after you are gone – may be an uncomfortable conversation to say the least. There are, however, several reasons why doing so may be your best choice.
One reason to share your estate plan details with loved ones is so that they will know what to do is something happens to you. After your death, for example, someone must step in and take care of the practical and legal things required to settle your affairs and probate your estate. Discussing your estate plan details with the person you appoint as your Executor ensures that he/she is prepared to step up when the time comes to fulfill his/her duties. It will also make your Executor’s job easier if he/she has prior knowledge of your overall estate plan and knows where your estate planning documents, and financial records are stored.
The same basic concept applies in the event you become incapacitated. If you executed an advance directive that named someone as your health care Agent, it can save time and stress if that person is already aware of the appointment and is ready to act when the time comes to do so. Likewise, if you have a living will in place it will make difficult decisions easier for your family if they already know your wishes as set forth in the living will.
Another reason to share your estate plan details is to decrease the likelihood of litigation. For instance, if you know that decisions you made within your estate plan are likely to be controversial, letting beneficiaries know ahead of time may reduce the likelihood of litigation after you are gone. Remaining silent may make it easier to question – and legally challenge – your bequests within your Will once you are gone
Keeping the Details Private
For many people the strongest argument against sharing the details of their estate plan is simply that they want those details to remain private. You absolutely have the right to keep the details private – at least until after your death. Once your Will is submitted to probate it becomes public record, meaning the details of your Will do not remain private. A trust, on the other hand, does not go through probate. As such, the terms of a trust agreement will remain private.
You may also feel that divulging the details of your estate plan while you are alive will lead to too much controversy. A long-standing family feud could be ignited once again, or siblings could turn on each other once they are made aware of how your estate is to be distributed. If you disinherit an heir (especially a child) in your Will, you may also prefer to keep that decision to yourself if it will cause significant discord within the family.
Is There a Compromise?
One way to effectively compromise is to create a Letter of Instruction. This is a document that allows you to provide relevant information to beneficiaries that is not included elsewhere in your plan. Although it is not a legally binding document, it can provide you with the ability to explain decisions you made elsewhere in your estate plan. In essence, this lets you explain things after the fact instead of while you are here which can help prevent discord or litigation.
Contact Coral Gables Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact the experienced Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.