Thanksgiving Dinner and Your Estate Plan

The family will be together. Its a great time to talk about your estate plan.

Some families talk about estate distribution all the time. Some families never breathe a word about it. Here are some thoughts for you to consider:

Should your estate plan remain private while you are alive? It’s nobody’s business but yours, right? Or, should you share your estate plan with your family members so they know what’s coming down the road once you buy the farm?

The following points are made by David Cay Johnston in, “Learning to Share,” NY Times, Sept. 10, 2008:

“Putting off discussion and then springing an unwelcome surprise in a will can poison the reservoir of family joy that parents want to bequeath to the next generation, resurrecting or exacerbating sibling rivalries, especially in blended families created through divorce or remarriage after the death of a spouse.”

Litigation costs may be significantly reduced if the testator tells family members who is getting what and why prior to death.

“Being upfront may be hard but could serve you in the long run. “Informing the children or grandchildren does indeed change the dynamic in the relationship,” [Prof. Mitchell Gans] said. “Kids do get angry at being cut off, but if you say nothing their anger will be directed not at you, but at the favored child. You need to ask yourself, ‘Why should this kid be the target of the anger?’ Why would you do that to them?”

“Gerald Le Van, a family wealth mediator in Black Mountain, N.C., and author of “Healthy Wealth in Families: Sharing Prosperity, Happiness and Purpose,” advises clients that “sitting down and talking to your children about your plans could avoid a great deal of litigation.” Mr. Le Van, one of two dozen such specialists in the country, said “the children and grandchildren may not like your choices, but at least they feel like you treated them as adults, that you genuinely asked what they wanted and they can then say to themselves, ‘O.K., this is not what I wanted, but you don’t always get what you want.’ “”