The Durham area estate planning attorneys at Clarity Legal Group® can help you to put together a comprehensive estate plan. One of the issues that often comes up during the estate planning process is a question of how involved family members should be as you make your decisions. For example, while husbands and wives often draft wills together, it is not always clear how much involvement people want their children or other relatives to have in weighing in on decisions made during the estate planning process.
There are both pros and cons to involving your family members in your decision making as you create an estate plan, so it is important to think carefully about what is the right approach for your situation. At Clarity Legal Group®, our Durham area estate planning attorneys can help you to develop a comprehensive idea of what you want to include in your estate planning process so you can decide whether or not you want to share information and involve your loved ones or not.
Should You Include Your Family In Your Estate Planning Process?
Involving your family in your decision making process, or at least discussing your estate planning process with them, has some advantages. One of the biggest is that your loved ones will understand your thinking, which will make it more likely that they respect your wishes after your death.
For example, if you plan to provide more assets to one of your children than the other in your will, or if you want to give a lot of money to charity, this could create family strife and could potentially even lead your loved ones to dispute or argue about your plan after you have passed. However, if you discuss your reasoning with your family in advance, your loved ones may better understand why you made the decisions you did and may be less likely to feel angry or hurt — or even to try to challenge the will after you are gone.
Involving your loved ones in the estate planning process can also be important because making an estate plan is about more than just specifying what happens to your assets after you are gone. You can also make plans for what will happen if you become seriously ill or incapacitated. In these circumstances, it is best if your family understands what you want in case there are questions about specific kinds of medical care you might need to approve or decline at a time when you can no longer communicate. If you’ve talked about your wishes with your family, they are more likely to make a decision that you approve of.
However, there are also big downsides to discussing the estate planning process with your family members. First, these are your decisions and you should not plan primarily to please others. You should plan to fulfill your own goals, values and intentions. If you include family members in the process they might pressure you to change your preferences. Even more likely, through no intention of your family members, you might be influenced by your own concerns about what they may be thinking. You could also find yourself the subject of anger or family fighting if your loved ones do not agree with the decisions you are making.
Usually my clients do not include their families in the decision making process. I am often asked whether children or other family members should be given copies of the legal documents after they are signed. I typically suggest that clients consider not doing this. I think the people your have named as your Health Care Power of Attorneys should have copies of the document under which they are appointed as well as your Living Will and HIPAA Authorization. They may need to act quickly to help you with a medical emergency.
As for your Will or Living Trust, I suggest you make sure they know how to find your lawyer and your legal documents, but that you not give them copies unless you are confident you are near death. Estate planning is not an event, it is a lifelong process, the ultimate goal of which is to put in place legal arrangements which reflect your wishes. You might just change your mind, and you should not do anything which would create a barrier to your changing your legal documents. I think you should review and reconsider decisions made under your documents regularly — at least every four years. I am worried that if you have shared your documents with family members you may feel reluctant to make changes in those documents for fear that you may have to explain or justify your choices.
Ultimately, you will need to weigh these pros and cons and decide which approach is the best one for your particular situation.
Getting Help from Durham Estate Planning Attorneys
Whether you involve your loved ones in the decision making process is a very personal decision. Our legal team will support you in whatever process you want to take to create your estate plan and can help you with putting together a solid plan that is enforceable and that ensures your loved ones respect your wishes after you are gone — regardless of whether they are on board with your plans or not.
To find out more about how our Durham estate planning attorneys can provide you with personalized help and advice throughout the entirety of the estate planning process, give us a call at 919-484-0012 or contact us online today.
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