I know most people think of something else when I refer to the “talk.” However, in my world, the “talk” means a discussion with the children about your estate plan and your expectations of them.
When I meet with parents finishing their estate plan, they often ask me if they should share the details of their plan with their children. This is a very difficult question to answer and I do not claim to know the right answer for each client. Too much depends on 1) personalities, 2) the nature of the relationship between the parents and their children, and 3) the nature of the relationship among the children.
In fact, I have long since given up trying to guess how a family will react when one or both parents have passed. I have met with families who could not seem to get along, only to watch them rally around each other when a parent is gone. Conversely, the seemingly perfect family may fall apart in similar circumstances.
However, I do recommend a “talk”, even if it does not involve a discussion of “who gets what.” I encourage every parent to communicate their expectations for their children after they are gone. To whatever extent you choose to share your estate plan with your children while still alive, let them know your decision was made after serious consideration. Let them know you expect them to respect your wishes even if they disagree with those wishes (whenever they find out). Certainly, it is appropriate to encourage them to prioritize relationships over material assets.
I have watched children argue in front of their parent about what they should get when that parent is gone. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, that parent was not able to talk with the children. Now that the parent has passed, conflict has already arisen. Don’t let the opportunity to share your expectations pass.
© 2016 Steven J Wright