By Tom Deans, Ph.D.
- Time: Deciding to hold a family meeting to discuss and design a transparent estate plan with close family members could consume an entire morning of your life – that’s three hours of your life that you will never get back. Play a round of golf instead.
- Over-rated: Family meetings are over-rated especially when attended by advisors who know how to run a meeting in a productive, respectful, business-like fashion. Why deprive your family of the opportunity to hash things out old-school, like when they were 12 and said things they clearly didn’t mean? Issues relating to your money and health care are best addressed over the phone by estranged family members who are grieving. It’s a great way to be remembered – icing on the cake for a great life lived.
- Expense: Family meetings not only take time, sometimes they cost money when done right. Save your money and keep your family guessing if you even have a legal will. You know your children won’t ask. Talking about aging, dying and the division of assets is deeply awkward. Keep a nice tight lid on that conversation and watch how your family relationships flourish.
- Sharing: The worst part of a family meeting is sharing documents like Powers of Attorney and Advanced Health Care Directives with the people you hope will act in your best interest when you lack capacity. It is better to wait for a crisis to reveal your intentions. People move faster in a crisis. More importantly, everyone knows that if you talk about this stuff, bad things always happen. Let fate play a bigger part of your well-designed estate plan.
- Feelings: Family meetings always devolve into arguments and tears, especially when parents reveal their desire to leave their estate equally to each of their children. Equality is such a mean-spirited concept and should be avoided at all cost. Even if your plan is to leave more money to one child, or more money to charity than to any of your children, keep this a secret. Secrets are fantastic. Ask your lawyer if you should share a copy of your legal will with your intended beneficiaries. Your lawyer’s response will tell you volumes about his or her love of family meetings and litigation.
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Tom Deans Ph.D. is a full-time professional speaker and the author of Willing Wisdom: 7 Questions Successful Families Ask. He is also the founder of the Willing Wisdom Index a 9-minute diagnostic estate planning tool. Despite his aspiration to put every estate litigation lawyer out of work, he has great plans to re-hire them to write wills for the 137 million U.S. and Canadian adults who are without. To order your copy of Willing Wisdom visit www.WillingWisdom.com.