Though old Hollywood likes to tell stories of individuals surprised to learn that they have inherited a fortune from a far-removed relative, the days of being in the dark about family finances and estate plans is slowly coming to an end. It is increasingly common for family matriarchs and patriarchs to involve their children and grandchildren into their estate planning. Though there are certainly benefits to being transparent about estate planning goals, it is important to remember that there may be some difficult and unpopular decisions ahead.
It is important to remember that estate planning is not a singular task, but a process. Perhaps a husband and wife first meet with their estate planning attorney alone to discuss their goals. In subsequent meetings, they may bring their children, or they may choose to have a financial planning meeting with their children before returning to their attorney. It is often too difficult to go into an attorney’s office for the first time and walk out with a viable and compelte estate plan.
One of the things that a family may need to discuss is just who will receive some kind of inheritance, or, as some people may see it, who is actually part of the family. There may not be many parents who are willing to deny their children an inheritance, but what about their spouses? Some matriarchs and patriarchs will include spouses, especially if there are grandchildren involved. Others won’t, possibly fearful of a divorce.
Ultimately, families may have a lot to discuss when it comes to estate planning, and it may make more sense to include all relevant parties, not just the heads of the family.
Source:Reuters, “YOUR PRACTICE-Who is family when it comes to estate planning?” Beth Pinsker, Oct. 29, 2013