In the course of serving many clients, a universal theme I’ve noticed is the desire to leave assets to loved ones, often children, efficiently and fairly. While approaches vary, with some preferring openness and others valuing privacy in their estate planning, all decisions are deeply personal and often influenced by unique family dynamics. It’s not my place to judge, but rather to provide informed suggestions to those contemplating how and when to involve their children in the estate planning process. Here are a few guidelines you might consider:

Communicate Your Decision-Making:

If your estate plan includes differing allocations among your children, consider leaving a written explanation. This could take the form of a personal letter accompanying your will or trust documents. Explain the reasons behind your decisions, perhaps recognizing the varying financial needs or life circumstances of each child. This can provide clarity, reduce misunderstandings, and offer peace of mind to your beneficiaries after you’re gone.

Location of Important Documents:

Even if you choose not to share the contents of your estate plan with your children, it’s crucial they know where to find important documents or who to contact for legal matters upon your passing. Whether it’s a secure location in your home or the contact information of your attorney, providing this information can ease the administrative burden during a difficult time. I often offer to notify fiduciaries of their roles and maintain a secure, digital copy of your documents for easy access when needed.

Multi-Generational Planning:

For those with substantial assets, consider the long-term impact of your estate and how it might benefit multiple generations. The adage “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” warns of the rapid dissipation of wealth if not carefully managed. Through detailed planning and ongoing guidance, you can structure your estate to support not just your children, but potentially grandchildren and beyond, preserving your legacy and providing stability for future generations.

Final Thoughts

The decision to involve your children in the estate planning process is deeply personal and varies significantly based on individual and family circumstances. Some may find an open discussion fosters transparency and prepares the next generation, while others may prefer to keep plans private to avoid potential conflict or entitlement. Whatever your approach, it’s essential to ensure that your estate plan is clear, legally sound, and aligns with your wishes.

I am always here to discuss the advantages and potential drawbacks of different approaches to involving your children in estate planning. Understanding the nuances of your family dynamics, financial goals, and personal values is critical in crafting a plan that suits your needs. If you’re ready to start this conversation or revisit your existing plans, feel free to reach out to my office. Together, we can ensure that your legacy is preserved and passed on according to your wishes.