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Should You Share Your Estate Planning with Your Kids?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

The slogan that we like to use when it comes to Idaho estate planning is that estate planning starts with you! What this really means is that your estate planning is designed to be customized to fit your specific needs. Rather than following a cookie cutter approach, we work with each of our clients to make sure that their plan will meet their unique life and circumstances. Additionally, we often review plans with our clients to determine whether their circumstances have changed and whether or not their documents also need to change.

Additionally, we often tell our clients that their written plan is their personal property. In other words, they own it and they have a right to keep it completely and strictly confidential from anyone that they want. As attorneys, we are under both legal and ethical obligations to keep a client’s matters confidential unless our clients give us specific permission to share their written documents with other people. In other words, even if we want to, we cannot share a client’s written plan with another person unless we get permission from the our client.

So this brings us to the question that is the purpose of this article which is: should you share your estate planning documents with your kids? The starting place is to assure you that there is absolutely no legal requirement that you share any of your legal documents with your children. In other words, you will never be required to do this and if you do you will only be doing so voluntarily. Because there is no legal requirement for you to share your plan with your children, you simply have to decide whether you want to or not. Below are three specific questions which will help you determine whether it is a good idea for you to share your estate planning documents with your children. If you answer yes to any of the questions below, then you may want to share your plan with your children.

Do You Need Help Right Now?

The first question is whether you need help right now. In other words, if you are not capable of caring for yourself, or even getting yourself to a lawyer’s office where you can discuss your estate-planning with them, you may need help from your children right now in order to complete your documents.

Keep in mind that there is a fine line between getting help from your children and being coerced or being unduly influenced by your children as you create your plan documents. Many parents have their children in the room with us as we discuss the creation of their plans with them. To make sure that our clients are doing exactly what they want in their estate plans, we always let our client know that if they choose, we can require their children to go out of the room we are in. In other words, you are not required to have your children with you as you either create or discuss the creation of your written plan.

If we observe, or sense that children are pressuring parents into doing certain things or giving certain gifts to them, we specifically remove the children from the room, and have a discussion with the parents alone. We have a right to do this because we only represent our client, and again because we have both a legal and ethical obligation to keep our clients’ legal matters confidential.

Our clients are able to give a specific specific permission to share all of their estate documents with their children. When this happens, we include children in the room during our discussions, and also during the review of the documents as they are being signed. In this way, both our clients, and their children are able to ask questions to make sure they understand what the documents do and how they help our clients.

Are You Asking Your Children to Do Something For You After You Are Gone?

The next question we discuss with our clients is whether they are going to be asking their children to do something for them after they are gone. In other words, if they are appointing their children to act as their personal representative, or as a trustee of a trust, we sometimes suggest to our clients that they at least let their children know that they are making these appointments.

The reason for this is because no person can be forced to do anything. In other words, if you appoint one of your children to be your personal representative, and that child says they don’t want to do it, they cannot be forced to do it. As a result, sometimes it is wise to at least talk with children and let them know what you want them to do after you are gone to make sure they are willing to do it.

If your children are in the room with you as you’re preparing your estate plan, they can ask questions about what it means to be appointed as a personal representative or a trustee. They can also ask what their specific duties and responsibilities will be in these appointments. This gives us the opportunity to explain these things both to our client and to their children so there are no misunderstandings. This goes a long way in making sure that our clients children do what our clients are asking them to do.

Are You Leaving Your Children Something That You Want Them to Know About Now?

The next reason why you may want to share your estate plan or your estate planning documents with your children is if you are leaving them something that you want them to know about or understand now. In other words, we often have clients who have a small business or family farming operations or something similar. The parents may be specifically leaving these things to one or more children. These parents may want to provide a good deal of information to these children about these things so that children will understand how to handle them once they receive them.

You may also want to leave some other specific gift to a child such as a item of property that has sentimental value. You may want to explain to this child why this item of property is so important to you and why you are giving it to them after you are gone.

Regardless of whether you answered yes to any of the questions listed above, you always need to understand that your estate-planning belongs to you. Only you can decide who you want to share your plan with. In many instances, it is wise to share your written documents with your children so they can help you now, or so that you can provide them with specific information about what you want them to do or about gifts you are leaving to them.

We have helped numerous clients in discussing their estate plans with their children. If you have questions or concerns about doing this yourself, we can help.

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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