If you become incapacitated or pass away suddenly, this can be very challenging for loved ones. Many people are legitimately concerned about sharing too much detail with their family members about end-of-life plans, but the truth is that some communication over important issues can minimize their stress during difficult times. Here are some things to consider sharing with your family members about your estate plan.
Who is Named as a Key Person
If you have a loved one named as a trustee, executor, power of attorney agent, or guardian of your minor child, they should know in advance about this. You may wish to discuss with them what such a role entails to confirm if they are comfortable to serve in that role. Some people don’t learn they have been named as an executor of an estate until someone passes away, leading to confusion and additional stress.
If any of your heirs are involved in your future incapacity, end-of-life, or estate plan, make sure you have talked this over with them in advance.
Where to Find Important Documents
If your loved ones and appointed executor don’t know where to find important paperwork, this can cause delays in probate administration and distribution of your assets to your heirs. Anyone appointed as your estate executor or personal representative should know where to find things like:
- Your will
- Funeral/burial instructions/contact details
- Your power of attorney documents
- A personal balance sheet (itemized list of assets/liabilities)
- Titles to vehicles
- Deeds for homes
- Copies of life insurance policies
Note: It’s not wise to include funeral and burial instructions in your will. These are immediate concerns, and your family members or executor may not locate your will promptly.
Which People Form Your Team of Professional Advisors?
It can be a lot of work to serve as an executor or trustee of an estate. Make that person’s workload lighter by providing them with contact information for any people who may need to be contacted regarding your affairs. This may include:
- CPAs who can help with final tax returns and estate tax returns
- Financial advisors who know the locations of various brokerage, checking, and savings accounts
- Real estate agents who can help sell properties that will not transfer to an heir’s ownership
- Funeral, burial, or cremation companies from whom you’ve purchased plans in advance
- Your estate planning lawyer
One of the most challenging aspects of communicating your estate to loved ones is to what extent you inform them about assets you intend for them. Since this is highly dependent on family dynamics, consider a conversation with your estate planning lawyer about what might be appropriate.