Possibly one of the most difficult steps in the estate planning process is the final step – to have a family meeting to discuss your wishes and instructions. Your attorney has advised you on what estate documents you need to accomplish your goals and you have executed those documents; however, your family needs to understand your wishes to avoid problems after your death or incapacitation. Having a revocable living trust, irrevocable trust, business succession plan, will, living will, and/or a power of attorney are only the first steps in the estate planning process. Making sure your family knows what to do upon your death or incapacitation is the final step.
Organizing the Family Meeting
Organizing a family meeting that fosters an open, honest discussion is very important. Explaining your plans will help prevent confusion, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings upon your death or incapacitation. This final step in the estate planning process is vital because it allows you to express your feelings and reasons for how you have established your estate. It also gives your family an opportunity to ask any questions they may have about your final wishes.
Determining an Agenda for the Family Meeting
While a family meeting does not need to be conducted in a formal, corporate manner, having an agenda helps you stay on track during the meeting. It ensures that you cover all of the topics that are important to you. If a family meeting becomes emotional, it may be difficult for you to remember everything you wanted to discuss if you do not have a written agenda. You are discussing sensitive issues and some anxiety is to be expected. Remember to be sensitive to issues that relate to blended families. This can often lead to very emotional situations; therefore, having a written agenda can help you remain focused and stay on track. Discussion leads to acceptance and greater understanding.
You do not need to disclose all of the details of your estate at a family meeting. The value of assets, details of investments, the division of assets, and other specific financial information should not be discussed at this meeting. This meeting is to provide a general explanation of your plans and wishes. It is also to provide information to those parties who will need to take specific steps upon your death or incapacitation such as:
- Your personal representative
- Your trustee
- Your power of attorney
Other Matters to Consider When Planning a Family Meeting
A crowded restaurant is not the best place to have a serious discussion about your final wishes. Select a location for your family meeting that is quiet, private, and encourages discussion. A large conference room at your attorney’s office or a large family room in someone’s home are good locations for family meetings.
Schedule the family meeting at a time when all family members can attend. While it may be tempting to hold this meeting during a holiday when everyone is gathered together, many family members may not want to discuss such an emotional topic during the holidays.
Schedule a specific beginning and ending time for your family meeting. Two hours is usually a sufficient amount of time for you to explain your plans and for family members to ask questions. Having a specific beginning and ending time helps keep you on schedule with your agenda.
This meeting is for adults only. Everyone needs to focus on the topics being discussed; therefore, childcare arrangements should be made so that children do not attend the meeting.
Depending on the complexity of your estate, you may want your financial advisor and estate planning attorney at the meeting to answer questions. It also gives you an opportunity to introduce family members to the individuals they will likely be working with as your estate is probated after your death.
For more information contact our office to schedule a consultation with the attorneys at Estate Law Partners, LLC. Their experience and knowledge can help you have the peace of mind of knowing that you have a plan. Contact Attorney Daniel J. Krause or Nelson W. Donovan today.
Reach us through our website or call our office at (608) 292-5185 to schedule your confidential, no-obligation initial consultation