Planning the future for your loved ones

Sharing Your Estate Plan

Before finalizing an estate plan, you should consider whether or not you will share it with others. It can be difficult for some people, especially the elderly, to share all this financial and estate information while they are alive. When to share the plan is also something to consider carefully. Everyone who has access to these documents can read them.

  • As you can imagine, that may cause a big uproar if the beneficiaries don’t agree with your choices.
  • Even if only the executor has access, the contents may leak out.
  • You may even be pressured to make changes you would prefer not to.
  • It is also possible that sharing is one of the best decisions you ever made.

With Whom and What to Share

There are many levels of sharing, so decide the one you are most comfortable with. And even though this may not seem like a problem now, it may become an insurmountable hurdle if you have not left behind a way for your executor or beneficiaries learn about or find your estate plan.

Not doing it at all is a poor option. But if you don’t share your will, make sure you leave behind an easily findable document that has the location of the will and other documents that represent your assets.

The minimum you should do is share the location of the documents.

The better organized the easier it will be easier for the necessary people to identify and distribute your assets.

  • Make sure you include all your other documents and assets and all your account numbers, domain names, usernames, PINs, and passwords.
  • If you used a professional they will have a copy and know the details of the plan. You should also give them access if you want to make changes.

Once you have all of your assets organized in one place you should share the location with your executor or trustee.

  • A detailed conversation with the executor or trustee will help them better understand and execute the estate plan.
  • They may also be able to advise you about some of the details.
  • In the case of a Living Will, the trustee will take over the management of the trust if you are unable to.
  • Even if you do not want to grant full access, you can share some of the information verbally so your executor is a little better equipped to manage your estate.

You may even want to share the locations with your family at that point, the more people that know where the documents or files are, the less likely they are to get misplaced.

As you may guess, sharing it with your family or other beneficiaries may not be straightforward.

There are pros and cons to each option.

  • While the major drawback could be family tension and squabbling from knowing the details, there are many possible benefits.
  • At the minimum, your beneficiaries are better prepared for the contents, which may dramatically reduce any tension and feuding among beneficiaries after you die, which is already a stressful time.
  • Ideally, sharing with your family may help you decide some of the content.
    • Your beneficiaries may actually contribute to your will by knowing their own preferences and agreeing to compromises.
    • For example, you may find out that your daughter doesn’t really like or want that painting in the hallway.
    • She may even be fine with giving more money to your son, if his family needs it more.
  • This is a very effective way of preventing your will from being contested, especially if the beneficiaries sign-off on you will.

So, no matter how reluctant you are to share, whether it is now, just before you pass on, or in a document to be opened after you die, it is crucial to do this as soon as possible.

If you become unable to relay any or all of this information in a rational way to an estate planner, your executor, or your family, the court will be deciding on how to distribute your estate and a lot of your estate may be lost.