The way you organize an estate plan can be very personal. You consider what you would like to happen if you are incapacitated or if you pass away. You appoint the people you trust most for key responsibilities, and you determine who you would like your money and other assets to go to once you are gone. However, even the most carefully planned choices could be questioned in court if your loved ones become at odds with each other over your estate plan.
Although disputes between family members may appear to be about money, most often there is a deeper cause. If your loved ones inherit less than they expect, they may feel slighted. If a loved one receives less than another, there may be resentment and concerns that they were loved less. Although hard feelings may start there, sometimes those feelings escalate and loved ones may look for reason to contest your documents in court.
Explain the basics at a family meeting
Whether it is beneficial or not, family dynamics often have an influence on estate plans in one way or another. However, this does not mean that you cannot establish the estate plan you want. Sometimes, calling a family meeting can help your loved ones work through potential problems before those problems ever become serious.
You can use the family meeting to tell your family the basics of your estate plan. This may include who you chose for certain roles, such as the executor of your will or your agent in a power of attorney. Sometimes it can also be beneficial to explain why you made those choices.
If not all of your loved ones are receiving the same assets, it may be worth explaining why those differences exist so the person who is treated differently is not left wondering if you loved or trusted the others more.
You may also use the time to set the record straight if you think your loved ones may be expecting a much larger inheritance than is realistic. However, you should not feel obligated to disclose the exact amount anyone will receive.
Give loved ones time to voice concerns
After you explain the basics of your estate plan, allow your loved ones time to share their thoughts or concerns. Sometimes, hearing your choices and your explanations is enough for family members to respect your wishes, even if they disagree. Alternatively, loved ones may voice frustrations and may benefit from further discussion.
If a loved one brings up a concern that you would like to remedy, most documents allow you to make updates. However, it is important to remember that you have control over your estate plan, and you do not need their approval to create the plan you want to create.
Estate planning choices are personal, and it is ultimately up to you to decide what you share or do not share about it with loved ones. However, a family meeting can be an effective tool to help loved ones understand your choices and work out any disagreements before they become legal disputes.