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Keeping family discussions about estate planning from going off the rails

Important things often require great care. Take discussions with the family about estate planning issues for instance. Talking with one's family about one's estate plan can be a very important thing. It can help create clear expectations within a person's family regarding what will happen asset-wise when the person passes away. It can also help bring potential issues and concerns regarding such matters within a family to the front early, thus giving a family a chance to properly address them. These sorts of things may be able to help things go easier for a person's family during the probate process after the person has passed away. 

It is, however, possible for such discussions to go awry. Discussions on estate planning can touch on some sensitive issues for a family, and thus could rather easily go into troublesome territory when not handled with careful thought. An estate planning discussion with one's family going badly could have many negative implications, including hurt feelings and increased difficulty in having constructive conversations about these topics in the future. 

Thus, careful preparations can be worthwhile when it comes to these types of discussions. Here are some things that may be able to help with reducing the likelihood of family discussions regarding estate planning issues going an unfortunate direction:

  • Avoiding mixing alcohol with such discussions.
  • Picking an appropriate venue for the discussion.
  • Making sure the family members who will be participating in the discussion know what topics the discussion will touch on.
  • Creating an agenda for the discussion, with set time frames for the different topics.
  • Finding the right balance between light and heavy topics. 

Another thing it is important for a person to exercise great care in is what they do in their estate plan. Having productive conversations with family about estate planning issues could help reduce the likelihood of probate disputes arising, but such conversations can only do so much. If an estate plan isn't set up properly or if a person fails to get an estate plan in place, a person could be opening the door for estate-related disputes within their family and a more difficult probate process. Estate planning attorneys can help individuals with being aware of what estate planning mishaps it is important to avoid. 

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "When Families Talk Money, Things Can Get Ugly," Veronica Dagher, Nov. 24, 2015

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