Feb 04, 2019

Estate Planning: What and When to Communicate With Your Beneficiaries

By Cary Carbonaro

Photo credit: Getty Images

When developing your estate plan, the first step should be identifying what your goals are, beginning with how much, and who you’d like the beneficiaries of those assets to be. After you’ve quantified your goal and designed a tax efficient distribution plan with your estate planning attorney, the next question becomes: What and when should I tell my heirs?

Some clients are more open than others when it comes to talking about money. Some may have a specific reason why they need to talk about it, where others may not feel it’s not appropriate until after they’re gone. Based on my experience, every client is different, and you are going to hear varying opinions on the subject. In my opinion, what information you choose to share is completely dependent upon the circumstances, such as:

  • How comfortable are you with talking about money?
  • Are the recipients of your estate mature enough to understand what you are telling them?
  • Are the recipients of your estate mature enough to handle the legacy you’re leaving?
  • Do you believe your heirs need any financial education prior to receiving their share of your estate?
  • Is there any jealousy or bad blood between the various respective heirs?
  • Could the way you divided your estate create tension between the respective heirs after you’re gone, particularly if discussed in advance?

These are all important questions you should be asking yourself during the estate planning process and I would suggest consulting with your team of advisers prior to discussing or sharing any information with your heirs. At the end of the day, you should do what makes the most sense for you and your family’s needs.

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