Should You Share Your Estate Planning Details?

Gabriel Katzner - February 23, 2024 - Estate Planning

Deciding whether to share your estate plan can be challenging. If everyone knows your plans, you can answer questions and potentially minimize conflict between family members after your death. However, many people are uncomfortable sharing their estate plans because they don’t want to share their private financial and personal information.

Estate planning can be complex and involve sensitive matters. You may need to make decisions that will benefit one family member over another. There are benefits and drawbacks to sharing and withholding estate planning information. Rather than sharing everything or nothing, you may choose to share pertinent information with key beneficiaries and provide a general overview of your estate plans to everyone else who they may impact.

The Advantages of Sharing Your Estate Plans

When you share your estate plans, your beneficiaries will know what to expect. They can ask questions to better understand your wishes. When estate planning is transparent, it is likely to go more smoothly.

Reduces Stress

No matter how well you plan, the death of a loved one is a stressful period that evokes powerful emotions, especially if the death is unexpected. If you share your estate planning documents with your loved ones, it can reduce stress, as everyone knows in advance what to expect. Your loved ones can use instructions in your estate planning documents to plan your funeral and settle your financial affairs.

Invites Questions

When you share your estate plans in advance, everyone is aware of how you plan to distribute your money and property. Everyone will understand their role in the process. For example, the person whom you have chosen as executor can ask questions about your plans. They can also express whether they are comfortable accepting the role.

Your estate documents will probably include account numbers, contact information for your financial and estate planning attorneys, and online passwords. If you share this information in advance, your beneficiaries can ask questions. They may notice oversights you have made when listing important account details or beneficiaries, giving you time to address them.

Being transparent about your plans can reduce confusion and conflict. This decreases the likelihood of disputes, disagreements, and legal challenges that may delay the process of distributing your estate.

Legal documents may contain broad statements. These are helpful to cover a range of potential circumstances, but they can also increase ambiguity. When you explain your wishes in advance, you can clear up any misinterpretations of your intentions. This is especially important in documents that cover the power of attorney to make financial and medical decisions.

If you are uncomfortable sharing this information, consider choosing two people to share your estate plans with. You can explain your perspective and the reasoning behind your decisions. This can be especially important if your estate plan includes charitable donations, special bequests, or an unequal division of your estate to care for a loved one with special needs.

Consider Alternative Perspectives

At first glance, your estate plans may seem unfair to one party or another. When sharing your estate documents, you can communicate your reasons for distributing your gifts in the way you choose.

Ultimately, you have full control over how you want to distribute your estate, as long as you are of sound mind. However, if a beneficiary shares a perspective you did not consider, you still have time to find resolutions and compromises that satisfy all parties. This can reduce stress and hurt feelings after your death.

Disadvantages of Sharing Your Estate Plans

One of the biggest challenges people face when deciding whether to share their estate plans is timing. The other is dealing with the emotions and potential manipulation tactics people may use to influence their estate plans.

Estate Plans Can Be Changed

As long as you are mentally capable, you can update your estate planning documents whenever you feel it is necessary to do so. It is important to review accounts and life insurance beneficiaries regularly to ensure they are up-to-date. Deaths, births, marriages, and divorces impact your estate planning.

If you share your estate planning documents with a family member, it may create expectations. If you change your estate documents, your loved ones may be confused about why you made the changes and even question whether they are correctly reading your intentions. When your estate plans do not meet your loved one’s expectations, it can increase the risk of disputes or strained relationships.

Dealing with Emotions

Whether they admit it or not, your loved ones probably have expectations for your estate plans. If they are disappointed in some way, it can cause a strain on your relationship. Whether you agree with their perspective or not, disagreements can be emotionally draining and time-consuming.

Especially when your family structure is complex, sharing your estate plan can exacerbate any unresolved issues that put a strain on relationships. If you have the resolve and emotional fortitude to have these conversations, it can decrease family stress now and after you are gone.

When loved ones disagree with your estate plans or have a strong emotional response to your plans, it may hinder your estate planning decision-making process. You may feel that you are unduly influenced by the more vocal members of the family. Your estate planning attorney can guide the discussion as you discuss your estate planning documents with your loved ones. They can also help you clarify your plans in your own mind after you have these difficult discussions.

Dealing with Manipulators

If you share your estate plan, some of your loved ones may disagree with your plans and put pressure on you to make changes to your estate plan. While it is important to listen to everyone’s perspective, it’s hard to balance their needs and desires with your own.

When family members use guilt, make emotional threats, or threaten to cut ties with you, you will probably regret sharing your estate documents. However, while it is important to uncover these family dynamics, your estate plan should reflect your own values and wishes. You should make estate planning decisions based on what you feel is fair.

Talk to your estate attorney if you are being influenced by emotional manipulation. They can help you clarify your estate planning goals. Doing so can help you avoid regrets and potential legal and ethical issues that may arise and challenge the validity of your legal documents.

Every family situation is different. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to share your estate planning documents in advance. Many people prefer to keep their financial and personal information private, but there are also advantages to sharing this information, such as greater transparency and a smoother process when you die.

Contact us to discuss your estate plans. We can help you ensure that your estate plans align with your goals and discuss the potential advantages and disadvantages of sharing your estate plan with your loved ones before your death.

Speak to a trusted advisor to help you develop your estate plan. Contact us and schedule a call with us at 855.631.3457 to learn more about how to protect those most important to you.

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