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Should I involve my family in my estate planning?

Estate planning is a dynamic process that addresses issues both before and after death. Wills are primarily used for outlining how assets should be handled after death, although living wills and powers of attorney can be used to create a safety net during life. However, many people approach estate planning as a solitary practice.

Since most people in Oklahoma find that determining what will happen after their death or in the event that they are incapacitated is a deeply personal decision, loved ones rarely know what is contained within a will. But just how wise is this course of action? Over half of retirees plan to leave an average of approximately $176,000 in inheritances, which is quite a sum for loved ones to unexpectedly receive.

Rather than leaving loved ones to wait until a will is read, informing family members of intended distributions ahead of time is generally a good idea. This is especially true when inheritances are not necessarily of equal financial value. Learning of unequal inheritances while already grieving the loss of a loved one can result in family members butting heads in probate court. In more drastic instances, some even go as far as to contest the validity of the will. Giving everyone involved a proper head's up can avoid this type of outcome.

The right estate planning tools can certainly address how assets should be handled. Unfortunately, this alone will not necessarily prevent unnecessary family feuds. Keeping family members abreast of all relevant information contained in wills, health care powers of attorney and trusts is typically sufficient for keeping Oklahoma families from disputing the contents of a will.

Source:, "Keeping the peace between adult children in estate planning", March 25, 2016

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