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Communicating Your Estate Planning Wishes to Your Heirs in Altamont, NY

Communicating Your Estate Planning Wishes to Your Heirs in Altamont, NY


If a man's character is to be abused, say what you will, there's nobody like a relative to do the business.
 
- William Makepeace Thackeray


Open communication from parents about their Estate Planning Wishes can give children a lifetime to adjust their expectations and ask questions about why the property was being split up the way it was. Be open and honest about your intentions—even if your heirs have to deal with unhappiness now.


Don't settle scores with a will

It can be a big mistake to favor one child over the others when you're leaving property, even if you're trying to correct past financial inequities. If you really feel that one child deserves something extra, rather than doing it in your will, consider doing it while you are still alive.

For example, if you paid for business school for your daughter and didn't give your son anything for his education, then you could give him a cash gift during your lifetime—perhaps a down payment on a house. If one child took care of you for 10 years in the family home and the others didn't help at all, then consider giving her a direct payment for the time invested—and explain to your other children at that time why you're doing it.


If you are determined to favor one or more of your children in your will, at least let all your kids know about your decision well in advance. This can be uncomfortable, but when the whole family knows what to expect, it can minimize hurt feelings down the road. Even discussing these decisions may cause hurt and anger, but it needs to be done so that the heirs get a chance to get some answers to their questions. They may not like the answer, but they'll at least understand why you did what you did. At the end of the day, it is your money and you should feel a need to apologize for any decision you make.

Include a note to the heirs

To make absolutely sure there are no misunderstandings, it's a good idea to write a brief letter to your children, to be read before the will. Explain why you made the decisions you did.


Consider paying taxes and funeral expenses with life insurance

Estate taxes, inheritance taxes, and funeral expenses can be a burden on your heirs. A great way to cover that cost is to take out a life insurance policy to pay these expenses.

If you are in a second marriage and you have grown children from the first marriage that you'd like to bequeath something to, you could leave them a set amount of money in the form of a life insurance policy. It's a great way to guarantee that your current family's lifestyle won't be disrupted, without forgetting the kids you had with your first wife or husband. Cash from a life insurance policy help to maintain the peace between the two families when the will is read.

Sell the vacation homes when you stop using them

Once you reach a certain age, you may find you're not really up to the long drive up to the vacation home any more. You may want to confer with the kids to see whether they actually want it. If not, the simplest thing to do is to sell it yourself.


Cash is king

That brings us to what may be the most controversial advice of all when leaving property: don't do it. If there is more than one child, coming up with a plan that's flexible enough to deal with life's twists and turns while keeping everyone happy is almost impossible. Making multiple children co-owners of a shared property can be messy.

Knowing that you loved them can be the best gift of all

 
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