By Attorney Keith Stevens
It’s not unusual for clients to want to do their estate planning in a vacuum, that is, without their children. They want to get everything set up to provide for their family if they pass away, or so that the family can provide for them, but they don’t want to get the family involved until that dramatic moment. They may want to create a power of attorney naming their son as their agent, but they don’t want the son to know about it.
Of course, every situation is different. There are situations where children have taken advantage of the powers that their parents have granted them. But by and large, your estate plan will work better if the family knows what’s going on.
Estate plans often include a complex collection of documents and arrangements designed to allow easy, cost-effective proxy representation and private transfer of assets. A modern estate plan often uses family members as helpers, in roles such as attorneys-in-fact, executors, or trustees. Surprising a helper by keeping them in the dark until the moment they are needed usually slows things down significantly, as we have to take time to get the helper up to speed.
Some people seem to have it in their heads that it is improper to discuss their assets with their children. But the advantages of making sure that everyone is on-board and on the same page will outweigh the perceived awkwardness.
So bring your kids along when you meet with your estate planning attorney. They may pick up something that you miss or they may remember some fine detail that fades with time. At the very least, they won’t be lost if you become incapacitated or pass away and have to figure everything out from scratch.