In estate planning there is always a lot of talk about tax issues. Income taxes, gift taxes, estate taxes, and generation skipping-taxes. While tax issues can spur people to action, it really isn’t the reason we plan. The real reason we do estate planning is to take care of ourselves and our families the way we want and to minimize the likelihood of disputes or other problems. A good estate plan is one that will:
- control property while you are alive and well;
- plan for you and your loved ones if you become disabled;
- avoid probate;
- give what you have to who you want, the way you want, and when you want;
- ensure the long term control and protection of property; and
- leave a legacy for your family or community.
In reality, your estate plan is not really about you at all. It is about those you love and want to save from difficulties. It is about your family.
We strongly recommend that parents and children counsel together about the parents’ estate plan. It is the children who will be left to live with that plan. They should understand it and be given the opportunity to voice their concerns. While it may not be appropriate to discuss particular assets and values in certain situations, there is much to be gained by discussing your plan with your children. Even if a particular child’s wishes are not followed, that child will feel more empowered if Mom and Dad have truly listened to him or her in a council setting. Counseling in your family will minimize the likelihood of disputes between the children or between the children and charities down the road. You can help your children understand the why of your decisions. Failing to counsel can lead to real tragedy as families are destroyed.
Estate planning can bring families together or drive them apart. Take time in the coming weeks to schedule a family council and use that council to discuss your plan.