Should You Share Your Will With Your Children?

by Hank Coleman

Should you share your last will and testament with your grown children? Reading them an advance copy of your will may preserve the harmony of your family and save your children money in the end by avoiding a costly probate battle. Or, it could also put sibling rivalry at the forefront of the family dynamic if it is not handled carefully.

Read Your Will To Everyone

When to share your willOne way to communicate your wishes and the directives in your will is to read it to everyone that is involved. Reading it to everyone at the same time may even enable you to head off any potential disasters or hurt feelings. If you have a lot of assets or several complicated moving pieces to your will, your children and other heirs can benefit from hearing your reasoning, more than anything else, for the decisions you have made. Are you leaving a large portion of your estate to charity or your church? Are you giving a greater percentage of your assets to one of your children more than another? There may be compelling and valid reasons such as a special needs grandchild, large debts, etc. that may need to be communicated effectively to the heir who receives less. It will be a delicate and tricky conversation that may be uncomfortable, but it is a conversation well worth having.

Save Potential Litigation

The cost of a family contesting a will in probate court can be quite high and will erode the assets left in the estate. Depending on the circumstances, 60% or more of an estate’s assets can be spent fighting for custody of the remaining amount. The only party that wins in a contested will fight is the probate lawyers. You can also have a family’s assets tied up in probate proceedings for over a year while waiting on the outcome and the release of the funds. Having a frank conversation with your heirs prior to the final reading of your will can save people from being surprised by you from the grave. If everyone is on the same page having read the will, the odds of an heir contesting it are greatly reduced.

Hurt Feelings Among Siblings

There may inevitably be hurt feelings among siblings and other family members who feel that they were not treated fairly in the division of assets. This can change the family dynamic in some cases and is a risk that you take by discussing your will with them before you die. But, it is a risk that is well worth taking if you handle your discussion with your heirs correctly, with compassion, and honesty. Talking and sharing the actual will with them can alleviate some of these feelings. It is the open communication lines and lack of potential surprises at the end of your life that will help them move on from any ill feelings that they will have.

Any conversation a family has about the patriarch or matriarch dying will never be a pleasant one. But, forcing the discussion can alleviate any surprises, potential hurt feelings that cannot be repaired, and a costly fight in court. Reading your will to your children and heirs can go a long way to providing closure and proper estate planning for your family.

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{ 1 comment }

Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer August 19, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Hank, I feel strongly about sharing the will with adult children. My grandmother didn’t and as a result my mom is estranged from two of her siblings.

We’ve already told our five kids (blended family) our plan so there will not be any surprises.

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