Many, perhaps most, families find it difficult to talk about estate planning. Parents may be uncomfortable with the idea that their adult children would have any input in the planning process. Without that input, parents may make decisions that seem wise, but are based on mistaken beliefs and impressions. Some may be uncomfortable informing their heirs why they have made the plans that they have made — or even the broad outlines of what those plans are.
The October 29, 2009 New York Times special section on Wealth & Personal Finance included an article by Deborah L. Jacobs, “Clauses Aimed at Keeping the Heirs Quiet.” After reviewing recommended steps to deter will contests, it cautioned that estate planners say the best way to avoid an estate settlement conflict is to do some smart estate planning conflict prevention, “taking steps during life to preserve the peace.”
“For example, rather than leaving relatives guessing about the motives behind your decisions regarding who gets what, you may want to spell out your reasoning in your estate-planning documents — or have a frank discussion beforehand.”
The candid discussion has the advantage of not taking the heirs by surprise when the contents of the will and related documents becomes known. But the very idea of the discussion is a daunting prospect to many. A mediator can help by facilitating conversations about family wealth and, in that way, preventing family wealth conflicts.