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Should parents discuss content of wills with their children?

When constructing a comprehensive estate plan, many Texas couples are unsure whether or not they should discuss the details of those plans with their adult children. There are various reasons for avoiding the subject, not the least of which is a desire to avoid contention within the family if the children will not inherit equal shares of the family's estate. However, this is also the primary reason why parents should discuss the content of their wills with their children, so that any familial strife can be worked through before a death in the family increases the level of tension and stress.

The worst outcome for any family is a high degree of bitterness and resentment between siblings after the death of a parent. In some cases, this level of contention can even lead to legal action, and the parties can become embroiled in long-term litigation over the distribution of assets. By discussing the inheritance decisions made within a will, parents can make it clear why they structured their estate in a certain manner. This also gives adult children plenty of time to come to terms with those decisions beforehand.

In addition, having a series of discussions about the existing estate plan gives parents a chance to explain why they have chosen to leave certain items of personal property to various relatives, as well as how they wish for those items to be handled in the years to come. For example, if a parent wishes for certain pieces of jewelry to be kept within the family and passed down to future generations, this is the time to make those wishes clear. While it may not be possible to ensure that children abide by these wishes, explaining the reasoning behind such gifts can help underscore the reasons why individuals were selected to receive certain items.

When it comes to the content of wills, transparency is often the best policy. Discussing these matters may not be a comfortable conversation to begin, but ensuring that everyone is aware of the provisions within an estate plan is important. When all members of a Texas family understand how assets will be divided upon the death of a loved one, a great deal of contention and strife can be avoided. This gives children the chance to grieve a lost parent without adding on the emotional burden of sibling discontent.

Source: wealthmanagement.com, "Should Parents Tell Their Adult Children What's in their Estate-Planning Documents? Yes", Patricia Angus, Feb. 23, 2015

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