Family gathering around dinner table.

Family Gatherings: An Opportunity to Review Your Estate Plan With Family

At Surprenant & Beneski, we are aware that during the recent holiday season, families across Southeastern Massachusetts came together to celebrate, share stories, and create memories. These gatherings also presented a unique opportunity for some families to discuss important family matters, such as estate planning. 

All family gatherings, be they summer barbecues or fall reunions, present the same warm environment in which to reveal and discuss your estate plan. With loved ones together, you can share deep feelings to ensure your wishes will be honored, and your loved ones cared for after you pass. 

Why a Family Gathering Is the Right Time for This Discussion

Family gatherings in informal, comfortable settings are prime time for discussing estate planning since everyone is together and each person can get a chance to ask questions, process information, address concerns, and share insights. 

Why Your Family Members Should Be Familiar With Your Estate Plan

Understanding your estate plan is essential for your family members since it allows them to prepare for their futures, allows them to ask pertinent questions, and helps them comprehend the reasons behind your decisions. Most importantly, it can prevent future disputes by clarifying your intentions.

What Documents You Should Discuss at Family Gatherings

A well-structured estate plan comprises several key documents, each of which serves an important and distinct purpose. Here is a list of foundational documents worth discussing:

  • Will to designate your personal representative (executor), outline how you want your assets distributed, and name a guardian for your minor children.
  • Trusts you may have established to protect your estate from probate or excessive taxation or to serve another particular purpose (e.g. serve a child with special needs).
  • Power of Attorney to designate the person you want to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or are out of the country.
  • Health Care Proxy in which you appoint the individual you want to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable to communicate your wishes.
  • Living Will in which you specify your wishes regarding end-of-life care.

How to Best Approach the Topic of Estate Planning

Serious subjects like estate planning should be approached with sensitivity and patience, but there is no need to be solemn. Though you should be prepared to answer questions and provide clarifications, in most cases, your decisions have been made carefully and are not up for debate. On the other hand, explaining reasons for the choices you’ve made is wise and will prevent misunderstandings or resentments. 

Make a Short List of Topics You Want to Discuss

This conversation need not be long or complicated. There will surely be some other talks to follow as time passes, but for now, just make sure to include the basics:

Asset Distribution — Explain how and why your assets are allocated among beneficiaries as they are. For example, one of your children may be getting a smaller share because they have already been assisted in buying a home.

Personal Representative (Executor) — Name the person you have appointed as your personal representative and what their role and responsibilities should be. It should go without saying that this individual already knows they have been chosen for this important role.

Trust Funds — If you have established one or more trust funds, explain why and how the funds have been set up.

Particular Items to Particular Beneficiaries — Clarify any specific bequests, such as family heirlooms (furniture, paintings, jewelry) or a car, to certain individuals.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today

Family gatherings, full of laughter and warmth, are also places to catch up on the details of one another’s lives. They present a perfect venue for discussions of life stages significant birthdays and anniversaries, educational and career milestones, planned trips, new relationships, and new homes. By the same token, they are the right place to discuss estate plans that will affect everyone present. There is comfort in sharing vital, meaningful information with those you lose most.