Every family has its own approach when it comes to talking about financial and legal information. As a will and trust lawyer, I’ve seen everything from open and transparent conversations to those where discussions of money are considered taboo. In reality, families who are approaching the estate planning process should be having some conversations about these topics, as it helps to make the process much smoother.
For example, in many families it is common for one spouse to have a significant influence over financial and legal affairs. This is typically the person who handles the bills and will be doing most of the estate planning with the attorney. However, just because one spouse is more knowledgeable about family finances doesn’t mean the other spouse shouldn’t be involved.
At a minimum, the other spouse needs to know where and how to access important documents which have been created with the estate planning attorney. These documents include the living will, medical directives, deeds, wills and trusts, as well as financial and insurance papers. Either spouse should be able to access all of these documents within short notice.
Likewise, both spouses need to have legal access and keys to safe deposit boxes and combinations to home safes. Children, especially grown ones, may also need to be able to access those documents in case of emergency or death.
And speaking of children, if you’ve named an adult child as the executor of your will or trust, it’s a good idea to talk to them about the responsibilities they will face.
It’s a big job and you want to be sure he or she is willing and able to carry out the role properly when the time comes. Again, this person will also need access to your important financial documents, no matter where they are located.
Remember, it’s up to you how much you disclose about what is in your financial documents. However, it’s always a good idea to give those whom are named in your estate planning documents a heads up about what to expect. You may also want to talk with those whom you’ve chosen to have power of attorney over your affairs should you become incapacitated.
These individuals will be in charge of your finances, and possibly your health and well-being, too. This is why you want to ensure they are willing and able to take on the responsibility and you’ve thoroughly discussed your wishes with them. Your medical directive or living will is a great place to lay out many of your concerns and desires, but actually talking to your personal representative will give him or her a better understanding of what you want and why. This can make decisions easier on their part when a treatment, procedure, or other choice falls into a “gray area” which you didn’t specifically discuss.
There are many bases to cover when it comes to estate planning, so if you are struggling on how to approach these issues and conversations, ask your attorney for guidance on how to incorporate the whole family into your planning.
For immediate assistance with this, we invite you to call Antoinette Bone, your local wills and trusts lawyer, at 817.462.5454 and ask to schedule a consultation.