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Should you discuss your will & other documents with intended heirs?

In families where disputes never seem to settle and familial cooperation is lacking, estate planning can be a difficult prospect. Parents may want to include their adult children in their wills and overall estate plans, but may not want to talk about what each son or daughter will be inheriting.

There are a number of reasons why you might not want to discuss your estate planning documents with intended heirs. For starters, you may worry about being viewed only as the assets you leave behind. You may also worry that discussing inheritances could lead to family strife. These are valid concerns, but other factors need to be considered as well.

We have previously written about what can happen when a deceased person's intentions are not entirely clear in their estate planning documents. Because of grief and other factors, family members may decide to contest a will, which can result in lengthy legal battles, legal expenses and family strife.

Discussing your will and other documents with your intended heirs could potentially prevent disputes later on. If you explain your decisions in a loving way, your heirs may be less likely to feel slighted by what they read in estate planning documents. And even if they do feel slighted, they will likely have a harder time arguing that you weren't clear about your intentions.

Having conversations with your adult children can also place the focus on your intended legacy (and the family's legacy as a whole) rather than just assets. This is especially helpful when leaving behind property or real estate that you would like to keep in the family.

There are certainly instances in which discussing inheritance details could do more harm than good, but these cases tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Ultimately, however, the decision to discuss estate planning details with your family is a personal one that only you can make.

Source: Wealth Management, "Should Parents Tell Their Adult Children What's in their Estate-Planning Documents? Yes," Patricia Angus, Feb. 23, 2015

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