Early Family Talks = Easier Estate Planning

Paul Miller |

There are a lot of difficult decisions that you have to make as a parent, and none is harder than trying to find the perfect time to have important discussions with your children. For example, it is a delicate line to walk when having the discussion about the "birds and bees" with your children. Too early, and you're the parent talking to your children about intimacy before all the other parents. Too late, and your children risk hearing the inaccurate version on the playground.

When it comes to matters of financial planning, it also pays to have an early conversation about estate planning as a family. These conversations should include everyone, from you and your spouse, to any beneficiaries you plan on naming in your estate plan. As you approach this difficult conversation, focus on the benefits of the task at hand.

Business as Usual

First and foremost, your estate plan should reflect your wishes and those of your spouse. Whether you have financial trusts set up or numerous properties to leave behind, how those are divided is your choice. As such, it's important to have this conversation with your beneficiaries early so that you can move past this matter and get back to business as usual. Some beneficiaries are bound to be disappointed, but the sooner you have the talk, the sooner everyone can come to terms with their role and everyone can get back to enjoying time together as a family.

No Family Fighting or Surprises

This point is really two benefits in one. For starters, if you put the discussion on the back burner for too long you risk never being able to finalize the details. This can lead to infighting amongst family members at a time when the focus should be on coming together and supporting one another. Additionally, when you discuss a possible estate plan early, it removes the element of surprise in the future when beneficiaries learn how trusts or estates will be dispersed.

You Retain Control

The greatest benefit to having the talk about estate planning early is that you can retain control over the process. When people wait until old age or illness has sapped their strength and mental sharpness, the individual who owns all the assets is too tired to deal with all the opinions and infighting, or worse is taken advantage of.

By deciding early on how the assets of an estate will be dispersed in the future, it not only relieves that burden from the asset owner, but it also makes it easier for the guardian of the estate to seamlessly take control and watch over the assets in the event of sudden death or debilitating illness.

Planning ahead is always a smart move. The focus of your golden years shouldn't be on how to divvy up assets, but rather, on enjoying time together as a family. When you're ready, sit down and have the estate planning talk with your family so that everyone can have a say, and all can move on without the frustration of family quarrels down the road.