Estate Planning . . . It’s a Family Affair
Countless movies and books have told the story of family members gathering together in the office of the family’s attorney for a “reading of the will” when a loved-one has passed away. However, long past is the time when the family congregates to hear how the decedent’s estate is to be divided, waiting to hear of surprising bequests to unusual, and sometimes unknown, beneficiaries. More common these days is a family that is already aware of the bequests to be made and the beneficiaries involved. This awareness is due to greater involvement of the family when parents create their estate plan.
Estate planning through family meetings is the process by which parents or other family members keep their loved-ones “in the loop” with regards to how their affairs should be handled upon death or disability. Such a process facilitates the implementation of an estate plan and leads to a more harmonious and effective administration of a decedent’s estate. Nevertheless, many individuals still fail to include their family members when setting up their estate plan.
How is the best way to go about holding a family meeting for estate planning purposes? Typically, parents will first work with their estate planning attorney to discuss the goals they want to accomplish with the wealth that they have accumulated during their lives: provide financial security for their children and grandchildren, minimize taxes for their beneficiaries, or maybe establish a legacy of charitable giving. The attorney then works with mom and dad to determine the best way to accomplish these goals through the use of the Total Family Trust Plan.
Once these steps have been performed, it is time to involve the rest of the family. The purpose of the family meeting is to make sure that the parents’ wishes are known, obtain feedback from other family members, ease anxieties, and maintain family harmony. In addition, there may be certain strategies for saving estate and inheritance taxes and preserving a family business that are better achieved with the participation of each member of the family. Mom and dad may want to lead the discussion, or they may choose to have the estate attorney discuss the legal workings and complications of implementing an estate plan formed specifically to address the parents’ goals. The intent of the meeting is to pass along information to all members of the family and to receive their input and feedback.
The LAW OFFICE OF BRUCE PEOTTER has had great success in maintaining family harmony through the use of family meetings in the estate planning process. Each time we hold a family meeting with our clients, we realize that we’ve not only been able to help mom and dad set up a great estate plan, but we’ve helped the family understand the value of what the parents have sought to do for the benefit of their children.
Each time we hold a family meeting with our clients, we realize that we’ve not only been able to help mom and dad set up a great estate plan, but we’ve helped the family understand the value of what the parents have sought to do for the benefit of their children.