Estate Planning

Communication necessary to estate planning

Recently, I talked about some of the key communication items in Estate Planning between generations. It is important for beneficiaries and executors to know where to find things like the wills and estate documents, a listing of financial accounts and contact people, details of your needs and wants for funeral arrangements, and contact listings of people and organizations that need to know if you pass away.

The next step to figure out is how to bridge the communication gap that exists within families. Death, taxes, and money are at the top of the list for topics that are least likely to be discussed within families.

Have a family meeting

In the business world, staff meetings or planning meetings can be very common. It may be wise to have a family meeting to discuss estate planning. Find a time when everyone can get together. Make sure there is an agenda so the conversation stays on track. Determine the important issues that need to be dealt with. Create an open and honest dialogue.

A family meeting might not be for everyone. If you have a very large family, or in the case where families live apart, a family meeting may be more difficult to organize.

Find a facilitator

If you like the family meeting approach, you may want to consider having someone outside the family to chair the meeting to make sure everyone’s issues are heard and the important issues are dealt with. You can use a family friend or even someone more objective such as one of your trusted advisors.

In some cases, bringing the family together may be too difficult and impractical. Some families may not communicate well in that fashion. Regardless of the approach to communicate, it is very important to create an estate inventory.

My estate organizer

Whether you’re getting your affairs in order or planning for succession, you’ll need to start organizing all of your banking, investment, legal, and other information so you can properly plan your estate – a key part of any personal or succession plan.
Keeping track of where you’ve filed everything can be a daunting task, but with hard work comes big rewards. From a communication perspective, you can even share the information with family and advisors, so they can stay connected and up-to-date on your plans. Keep a copy of the estate inventory with your will and they’ll know where to find everything if something should happen to you in the future.

My two cents

Planning ahead is so important. We see far too many situations where the families argue about the smallest details at the worst possible time when everyone is emotional. Feelings of resentment and anger can surface, and tension may build at the worst possible time.

Although talking about death and money can be uncomfortable, and also frightening to many, good open communication, even the most dismal of circumstances can bring a family closer together and illustrate strength and love.

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