Talk to Loved Ones About Your Estate Plans

Many people are uncomfortable discussing with their loved ones how they plan to distribute their estates. Perhaps you do not want your children to realize how much they may receive after your death, or perhaps you think your choice of heirs could change in the future.

If you do not discuss your estate plans, disagreements and conflicts could erupt once the details are revealed.

Common issues that arise often occur between siblings whose shares may not have been equal, or in the case of blended families, children from your first marriage may feel anger about assets you leave to your second spouse or his or her children.

At that time, you will not be able to explain your thoughts and wishes regarding the distribution of your assets.

Discussing your estate plan gives you an opportunity to inform heirs about the distribution of your estate and explain why you decided to handle matters in a certain way. You can go into specific detail, informing heirs how each asset will be distributed, or you can give a general overview of your estate plan.

As an alternative, you can leave a personal letter to your loved ones and heirs explaining why you decided to distribute your assets the way you did, and perhaps why you chose a specific person as your Executor or Trustee. Although resentment between heirs may not be completely eradicated, it at least helps ease hard feelings that could become a rift between your loved ones.

Even if you reveal your plans to heirs, you may still want to include a personal letter with information about benefits, special wishes, who should receive personal effects, your cemetery and funeral preferences and the location of important documents.

Aside from your Last Will & Testament, Advance Directives, Durable Power of Attorney, (and if executed, your Trust and Cremation Permit) at a minimum, specify where to find:

  • Income tax returns.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • Other insurance policies.
  • Investment details.
  • A list of household contents.
  • Outstanding loan documentation.
  • Automobile titles.
  • Important warranties and receipts.
  • Bank account information.
  • Credit card details.
  • Information about your home.
  • Attorney contact information.
  • Financial Advisor contact information.
  • Online account information.
  • Pre-paid burial arrangements or preferences.
  • A memorandum of personal assets and beneficiaries.

This letter will help your heirs identify all assets and benefits and avoid speculation about your wishes. Preparing the letter will also force you to organize your records and make sure all-important documents can be easily located. Since the information is likely to change, review the letter at least annually.

Your Children’s Estate Plans
If you have a sizable estate that you will be leaving to your adult children, your children probably need estate plans of their own. To encourage them to plan, consider these tips:

Explain why estate planning is important. You do not want to dictate what they should do, just emphasize the need for estate planning. When your children encounter major life events, such as marriage, divorce or a child’s birth, remind them to review their estate plans.

Coordinate estate planning across generations. If you have a substantial estate, you may want to coordinate your planning efforts with your children’s plans. For instance, if your children also have substantial estates, they may prefer that their inheritance be distributed to your grandchildren instead. A coordinated effort can help minimize taxes.

Encourage your children to get important estate planning documents in place, such as a Last Will & Testament, Advance Health Care Directives and Durable Powers of Attorney.

Do you have questions?

Count on your experienced team at Ericson, Scalise & Mangan, PC to provide you with sound guidance for your Estate Planning, Elder Law, Real Estate, Probate, Trust & Estate Administration, and other legal needs. For assistance, contact us today at (860) 229-0369, or email us at

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