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Estate Plan Check-Up 12: Important Conversations with Loved Ones

By Deirdre R. Wheatley-Liss, LL.M, CELA and Crystal West Edwards, Esq., CELA

In this Estate Plan Check-Up series, we’ve talked a good deal about reviewing your documents.

Equally important, though, is having conversations with your loved ones so they know your wishes before they read them in your documents.

For a number of reasons, it’s probably best to limit the number of people who have access to your estate plan documents. But it’s also helpful if members of your family and other important people in your life are not surprised – if and when they read those documents after you have passed.

As part of your estate plan check-up, we recommend that you have conversations with family members, and others who should know, about what your living will says, to whom you have given durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney, and what provisions you have made for your long-term care and, if you have one, what the provisions of your trust are.

For the individuals you have entrusted to be trustees or guardians, it's good to talk to them – to give them a roadmap, letting them know what it is that you hope that they will do in the event they become a guardian for your minor children or the trustee of a trust created for the benefit of the children.

Perhaps you want the trustee to really think about ways in which to use the money that can further whatever the passions and desires are of the child and not be so black and white (“the money in the trust is only to be used for education”).

Guardianship guidance is also important for people who are serving as guardian of our loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities. You want to let the people whom you trust know how you would want them to stand in your shoes and make the decisions you are no longer able to make.

Family Love Letters. Your estate plan is not a living document, it is words on paper that is intended to deal with the who and how of your assets, not your values, or hopes and dreams for your family. Consider sitting down once a year and writing a letter to your fiduciaries on what is important to you as they make decisions – college v. trade school, staring a businesses, volunteering or being philanthropic, trips and vacations – so they have a sense of what you would have done with the assets. Estate planning is an opportunity to pass along your values with your wealth.

This post is for general informational purposes only. The information provided may or may not apply to you given the specifics of your situation. For a video presentation of this information, please visit Estate Plan Check-up. For more detailed information, please visit or contact us for a free 20 minute telephone consultation.

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