The question as to whether you should share your estate planning documents with your immediate family is one that comes up fairly often.
The answer depends on the personal choices and family dynamics of a client. In thinking through this issue at hand, it is important to consider that the primary purpose of an estate plan is to make it easier for the family when a person dies.
The assumption for many clients is that family members should have copies of their documents. However, keep in mind there are certain drawbacks of giving copies of legal documents to family members.
For one thing, what if the plan changes in the future? What if someone named in the document is later taken out or is in line to receive less in the way of an inheritance. Will this person contest the legitimacy of any later version of a Will?
Moreover, would you want to be put in a position to have to explain your reasons for your own plan?
The other side of the coin is that giving family members an ‘advance copy’ so to speak may avoid any surprises or conflicts later. There are many clients who are actually very comfortable with family members seeing their documents and financial information.
In my experience, I generally tell clients to let family members know (at a minimum) that they have an estate plan and where the documents will be stored. I also like the idea of letting them know where to find bank account information, passwords to phones and tablets, family papers (marriage certificates, divorce orders, etc.) and of course, contact information for attorneys, accountants and financial advisors.
Armed with this essential information, it will certainly make it easier for family members to carry out your wishes.
ABOUT STEVE SHANE
Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts, and a charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation, and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman, one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the United States, serves dynamic businesses, individuals and families. With 15 offices and nearly 250 lawyers who counsel clients across more than 30 areas of practice, Offit Kurman helps maximize and protect business value and personal wealth by providing innovative and entrepreneurial counsel that focuses on clients’ business objectives, interests and goals. The firm is distinguished by the quality, breadth and global reach of its legal services and a unique operational structure that encourages a culture of collaboration. For more information, visit www.offitkurman.com.
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