Once you’ve committed to discussing your estate planning with your family, what should you share specifically? Should you detail the entire plan with them, or just an outline of it? Should you go into detail about who gets what?
The specifics of what should and should not be discussed about your estate will depend on your family, your circumstances, and your overall level of comfort with how much knowledge they possess. You don’t necessarily have to violate your privacy, and there’s typically no need to reveal specific dollar amounts at this meeting. One big caveat – if there’s anything in your plan that might stir controversy, concealing it now serves to invite conflict later. Thus, a good basic rule of thumb is to share as much as is necessary to get everyone on the same page.
Tips for a successful estate planning family meeting
When you hold your family meeting, a bit of awkwardness is to be expected at first—after all, no one in your family (presumably) is likely eager to discuss what will happen when you die. Likewise, you need to be prepared to talk through some of the choices you’ve made that are likely to generate some pushback. However, the end of the meeting is often more comfortable than the beginning. The following guidance can help you get there.
- Plan the meeting after the holiday, if possible. If you’re gathering the family at a holiday like Christmas, try to arrange the actual meeting to take place after the holiday itself, so a potentially uncomfortable conversation doesn’t spoil any planned festivities.
- Invite your financial advisor, estate planning attorney, and accountant to be in attendance.
- Schedule the meeting in a quiet place that encourages candid conversation. A public place is probably not appropriate for this discussion. Your financial advisor or estate planning attorney might have access to space if you need it and prefer a “neutral” site over your living room.
- Arrange for child care. This meeting should be an adults-only gathering so everyone can participate without distractions from babies and children.
- Set an agenda. Encourage open conversation, especially on any controversial points, but have a clear list of points to be covered, so you don’t forget anything in the midst of emotional moments.
- Set a start and stop time. This step will help the meeting stay on track without meandering away from the main points. If something significant comes up, you can always continue the discussion later.
- Strike an inclusive tone. While you should not suggest that your decisions are open to challenge or discussion (it is your estate plan after all), try to convey that you are inviting the family to share your vision and goals. If you can get them on board with you at the outset, the risk of disputes will be significantly reduced later.
Part 3 of 4 - Holidays Estate Planning