Category Archives: Wills

Should You Discuss Your Plans with Your Children?

Clients often wonder if they should share their estate plans with their children. Now, these are not clients who are setting up elaborate trusts with millions of dollars that will flow down to future generations, these are just regular people who worked hard all of their lives and are now trying to figure out how to best divide up their estate.  My answer to this question is, of course, it depends.

If you are dividing your estate up equally among all of your children, you may think there is no need to discuss your plans with them. However, if you are appointing one of them as the executor/executrix, you should let that person know that you are planning on appointing them, and you should let the others know your choice.  If you can’t decide who to appoint, you might want to talk to your children to find out if they have a preference.  One might be better equipped to take over management of your finances when the time comes, while another feels more comfortable making medical decisions.

It gets trickier if you have a child with financial, drug or alcohol problems who you’ve either chosen to disinherit or have made special provisions for through a Trust. Often times, in cases like this, inheriting a large sum of money (even $10,000.00 at one time) could be harmful or deadly to someone with drug or alcohol problems.  If you are in contact with this child and you think they would understand the reasons for your decisions, you may want to talk to them.  If you are not in contact with the child or you think that bringing it up would cause problems, it may be best to not address it at this time.  Be aware that your child will in all likelihood find out the way you’ve distributed your estate after your death, and may become angry at their siblings who have inherited more.  You might consider drafting a letter to be opened by that child after your death, which explains your reasons.

Another time that it may be appropriate to talk to your children about your plan is if there is a home that you are planning to leave to multiple children. Getting the children together to talk about the responsibility of joint ownership, what the expenses of the property are and how to divide up the use of the property can be very beneficial while all of the parties are still alive.  Owning real estate with several other people, even (especially?) family members, can be a big responsibility – both financially and emotionally and it’s best to make sure everyone is on the same page.

The talks can take place at home, at the attorneys office or even with a trained facilitator depending on the extent of decisions that need to be made, the type of property being discussed, and the number of parties involved.  Making sure that everyone feels heard and that everyone knows what their responsibilities will and won’t be can make things much easier after a parent passes away.

The Dangers of Do It Yourself, A Cautionary Tale

A colleague recently had a new client come to see them. The man's father had passed away, and the son had found the Will…the Will that his father had purchased online and signed, thinking his wishes would then be honored. Sadly, they won't be. The form Will that the father had filled out had spacesContinue Reading

Do You Need to Change Your Will When Your Finances Change?

As you read about the state of finances in the world, and look at your own financial situation – you may be wondering if you need to change your Will or Trust to account for the change in your finances.  As is often the answer, it depends.  It depends on how the document is written,Continue Reading

Should You Put Burial Instructions in Your Will?

I often have clients ask me if they should include their burial wishes in their Wills. I always tell them "no."  Your Will is the document that outlines how you want your property divided after your death, and hopefully it will not be the first thing people are reaching for when you pass away. YourContinue Reading

The Importance of Naming an Alternate Beneficiary in Your Will

I have posted before about the importance of naming an alternate beneficiary on your life insurance policies, so that the proceeds can be distributed to someone else in the event that the primary beneficiary predeceases you.  However, it is likewise important to name alternate beneficiaries in your Will.  For example, if you have one child,Continue Reading

Do you know where your Will is?

I often meet with clients who have Wills that were drawn up 20, or more, years ago.  Usually the clients have copies of the Will and the originals are with the attorney who drafted the Will.  And many times the clients have moved around since the original drafting, and many more times the attorney hasContinue Reading

Charitable Giving – Being Specific with Your Wishes

Many of my clients want to remember certain charities in their Wills or Trusts.  They may say "I want to leave money to my church" or "I’d like to set aside some funds for the Salvation Army" or perhaps another charity that has local and national branches.  One thing to keep in mind when thinkingContinue Reading

ABA Guide to Wills and Estates

The American Bar Association has book called the Guide to Wills and Estates available for downloading from their website.  The book guides you through the different estate planning tools, and talks about how planning now makes things easier for your family later.  While advice from a book does not replace a relationship with an attorney,Continue Reading

Changed your mind? Make sure you change your will.

The Boston Globe had an article today about a Rhode Island man who had disinherited his two young children, and their mother’s fight in court to obtain some of the estate for their use.  What struck me about the article were the last few paragraphs: Family members on both sides of the dispute agree onContinue Reading

When Do you Buckle Your Seat-Belt?

Do you buckle your seat belt when you get in the car?  It’s easy, doesn’t take much time, and you know you’ll be protected in the event of an accident.  Do you figure that since things are fine now, you’ll wait to fasten your seat belt until you feel the car start spinning out ofContinue Reading