If you have made the wise choice to create a comprehensive estate plan, you may now be faced with deciding whether to share the details of that plan with your family members and other beneficiaries of your estate. Because it is a very personal decision, only you can decide to share or keep the details private. To help you make the right choice for you, the Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law explain some advantages and disadvantages of sharing the details of your estate plan.
Advantages of Sharing the Details of Your Estate Plan
Discussing the details of your estate plan may be an uncomfortable conversation. This is particularly true when discussing details that relate to how your estate assets are to be distributed after you are gone. There are, however, several reasons why doing so might be best for you.
One reason to share your estate plan details with loved ones is so that they will know what to do if something happens to you. After your death, for example, someone must step in and take care of the practical and legal things required to settle your affairs and probate your estate. Discussing your estate plan details with the person you appoint as your Executor ensures that he/she is prepared to step up when the time comes to fulfill his/her duties. It will also make your Executor’s job easier if he/she has prior knowledge of your overall estate plan and knows where your estate planning documents and financial records are stored.
The same basic concept applies in the event you become incapacitated. If you executed an advance directive that named someone as your healthcare Agent, it can save time and stress if that person is already aware of the appointment and is ready to act when the time comes to do so. Likewise, if you have a living will in place it will make difficult decisions easier for your family if they already know your wishes as set forth in the living will.
Another reason to share your estate plan details is to decrease the likelihood of litigation. For instance, if you know that decisions you made within your estate plan are likely to be controversial, letting beneficiaries know ahead of time may reduce the likelihood of litigation after you are gone. Remaining silent may make it easier to question – and legally challenge – your bequests within your Will once you are gone
Disadvantages of Sharing the Details of Your Estate Plan
For many people, the biggest disadvantage of sharing the details of their estate plan is that sharing those details contravenes their desire for privacy. You certainly have the right to keep the details private while you are alive; however, once your Will is submitted to probate it becomes a public record, meaning the details of your Will can be ascertained by anyone. A trust, on the other hand, does not go through probate. As such, the terms of a trust agreement will remain private unless the trust becomes involved in litigation.
Another potential disadvantage to sharing the details of your estate plan while you are alive is that it can lead to family disputes. A long-standing family feud could be ignited once again, or siblings could turn on each other once they are made aware of how your estate is to be distributed. If you disinherit an heir (especially a child) in your Will, you may also prefer to keep that decision to yourself if it will cause significant discord within the family.
How a Letter of Instruction Can Help
A Letter of Instruction can help resolve this common dilemma by offering a compromise of sorts. A Letter of Instruction is a document that allows you to provide relevant information to beneficiaries that cannot be included elsewhere in your plan. Although it is not a legally binding document, it can provide you with the ability to explain potentially controversial decisions in your estate plan that could lead to disputes.
Contact Coral Gables Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about how estate planning, contact the experienced Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.
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