Estate planning is a complicated subject that, in some instances, can lead to family conflicts. Discussing your estate plan with family and other beneficiaries in advance can help prevent future family feuds.
Here are some tips for handling sensitive conversations with beneficiaries:
Limit Conflicts Before They Start
One way to avoid potential family conflicts over your estate plan is keeping your plan up to date. It is a good idea to regularly update your estate plan, especially after major life events such as a marriage, divorce or birth of a child or grandchild. This ensures that you do not accidentally leave anyone out of the plan.
Prepare for Questions
Your family may have questions about your estate plan, such as your reasoning for dividing your estate a certain way. As best you can, prepare your answers – on your own or with the help of your estate planner – for these questions ahead of time.
Look for Conversation Starters
You may have a hard time figuring out how to bring up your estate plan in normal conversation. Perhaps a family friend is the executor of another estate or there is an estate-related feud in the news. These opportunities could be used as family conversation starters about your own estate plan.
If you are unsure how to begin the estate planning conversation, consider asking your estate planning attorney for recommendations. They have likely dealt with this topic many times and may offer valuable advice.
Keep the Conversation Positive
Whether you bring up your estate plan in a casual, conversational manner, or use a more formal approach, the key is keeping the discussion positive, not confrontational. If you believe you may need a moderator, invite one. A moderator can help prevent the conversation from veering off into confrontational territory.
Continue the Conversation
Keep the lines of communication about your estate plan open – especially if there have been any updates or modifications to your plan. Try to be as transparent as you possibly can when discussing your estate plan. You can also consider establishing a regular cadence of meetings to keep the family abreast of any changes.
By openly discussing your estate plan, you can reduce or prevent undue stress to your family after you are gone.