The Family Meeting: A Crucial Part of Your Estate Plan
When creating an estate plan, there are many documents available that will help ensure all your assets are protected. Once the right documents are in place, there's still one important to consider: sharing the details of your estate plan with those who will be affected by it the most.
Why Hold a Family MeetingWhile talking about what happens to your estate after your death may seem a bit daunting, little to no communication about the details in your estate plan will likely lead to anger, jealousy and resentment between family members and loved ones - especially if there were any preconceived notions about how your assets should be dispersed. For these reasons, it is highly recommended that the grantor hold a family meeting with loved ones to make known the details within your estate plan.
Communication is CrucialFamily meetings are often conducted by the grantor and the executor of the estate and are an effective way to communicate your values and the legacy you wish to leave your family. During the meeting, you have the opportunity to explain your instructions as outlined in your estate documents, discuss any specific information as it pertains to the family members or loved one present, and address any concerns that may arise. It also allows for an open forum where all members present are entitled to the same information, thus eliminating any confusion.
Key Points to ConsiderKey points to consider when planning a family meeting are:
- Announce the meeting's purpose without cause for worry (if you are in good health, let your family know)
- Identify which family members should participate
- Decide whether it's beneficial to have your attorney present
- Make sure your goal and objective of the meeting are clear
- Identify with your executor possible conflicts, and agree on how best to address them
- Keep the tone of the meeting positive
You might want to consider holding a separate family meeting for specific family members, especially if there are children under the age of 18 involved, an ex-spouse to consider, or other special circumstances that influenced the decisions outlined in your estate plan.
The Bottom Line...As key players in executing your estate plan, it is important that your family understands your wishes and will respect your choices when the time comes to carry them out. Including family meetings as part of your estate planning not only helps to eliminate misunderstandings and confusion, but also goes a long way toward keeping the peace between loved ones after you are gone.