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Having a Conversation With Your Family About Your Estate Plan

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

I’ve seen it time and again. I will have an elderly couple, or individual come into my office to complete their estate planning. We talk about the documents that they will need, the choices that they get to make, and how their estate plan will affect them while they are alive, and their family after they have passed away. Many times, when this conversation is over, our clients still seem apprehensive. As we discuss their concerns, we learn that they are anxious about talking with their family about their estate plan.

In other words, many of our clients are fearful about talking with their children about their plan. For some, this fear comes from the generation in which they grew up. Many of the older generations find it uncomfortable to talk about money, finances, property, and how these things will be distributed after they’ve passed away. For others, the fear is caused by the family relationships they have. They may recognize that one or more of their children may be disappointed or angry with the decisions they’ve made through their plan.

Whatever the reason is, we can help. The qualified, and knowledgeable estate planning attorneys at the Racine law office have helped clients with their estate plans for more than 70 years. Our team of Idaho estate planning lawyers consists of partners Randy Budge, and Lane Erickson, and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of our attorneys has received the highest ratings possible on several of the top legal rating services, including AVVO, Martindale and Hubbell, and Justia. These ratings are earned based on feedback from our clients, other attorneys we work with and the judges we appear before on a regular basis. Given our experience we believe that we have the ability to assist each of our clients with their estate planning issues, including talking with their family about their written plan.

The purpose of this article is to give you a place to start. We offer some advice about how you can have a conversation with your family about your plan. However, this article is not designed to exhaust this topic. Rather, we suggest that you meet and talk with your Idaho estate planning attorney about the best ways of having a conversation with your family about your written plan.

Remember Who is in Charge

The first piece of advice that we can offer to you when you are talking with your family about your plan is that you always remember who is in charge. Your estate-planning belongs to you. It is considered your personal property. Because of this, you have the ability to come up with whatever kind of plan you choose. Additionally, you have the ability to change your written plan anytime you want.

You don’t need approval from any particular person to create the plan you want. In other words, it really doesn’t matter whether your children are happy or not with the plan you have come up with. Sometimes when our clients are fearful about how their estate plan will be received by their family, it empowers them and encourages them to simply know that they are in charge.

Be Respectful and Caring but Also Firm

This leads us to the next tip that we can provide to you. While you are in charge of your own estate planning, it is still important to remember to be respectful and caring with your family. However, you should never allow your children to influence how your plan is completed if you don’t agree with what your children suggest. In other words, being respectful and caring is important, but it is also important to be firm with the decisions that you have made that you believe are right.

For example, we occasionally have parents who come in to complete their estate plan who have a child or children that suffer from an addiction with things such as alcohol or drugs. These parents recognize that if they leave an inheritance to this child of money, or property, this will likely only be enabling or furthering their child’s addictions. Because of this, some parents will disinherit this child. Other parents will choose to set up a trust that will receive the inheritance for this child and will then protect it and distribute it based on strict instructions that are provided so that the distributions do not enable or further their child’s addictions. When this happens, these children are often very angry. Despite this, we encourage our clients to remain firm with their decisions that will best help their children later in life.

Use and Attorney if Possible

One of the options we offer to our clients when it comes to talking with their family and children about their estate planning is that we will do it for them. In other words, we often have circumstances were the parents, and their children, will come into our office so that we can present and discuss with them the plan their parents have completed.

In this setting, we often find that we are able to answer questions that the parents might not be able to answer. Because of this, there are often fewer misunderstandings about how the estate plan works, and what will happen to the money, property, and assets the parents own after the parents pass away. We’ve also found that most people will behave better when they are in front of an authority figure such as an attorney.

Even in these circumstances, there have been times when children have become angry with their parent’s written estate plan. In these instances, they can direct their anger at the attorney, rather than at their own parents. As an attorney, I have no problem having an individual yell at me, or call me names, or be threatening towards me, when I am acting in the best interests of their parents who are my clients. I also have no problem telling these children that the estate plan belongs to their parents, and they are the ones that get to make the final decisions. I also have no problem telling these children that if their belligerent attitude, or anger continues, their parents have the option of completely disinheriting them. I’ve found that in even the most hostile situations, most children become more respectful when they hear these things from an attorney.

So, if you have concerns about how to have a conversation with your children or family about your estate plan, we can help. We’ve assisted numerous clients in having these discussions and we are confident that we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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