Not many people discuss their estate plans, particularly the provisions in a will, with the beneficiaries of the plan. These matters are often considered private matters that should not be made public. While there may be cases in which it is best to keep the provisions of a will under wraps, having a frank discussion with beneficiaries can be good idea.
One advantage of having a conversation with potential beneficiaries is that the testator’s wishes will be made clear and understood by all beneficiaries while the testator is still alive. This can limit later challenges to the testator’s will or trust provisions. It can also give the testator the chance to explain why he or she chose to leave some property to some beneficiaries and not to others. It can also provide the testator with an opportunity to make changes to the will if the beneficiaries indicate that they will likely disclaim any inheritance received for various reasons.
Discussing a future inheritance with a potential beneficiary can also give the testator an idea of whether or not the beneficiary is in a position to take care of or manage the inheritance to come. For instance, if a father wants to leave an expensive painting to his child, he may want to discuss the gift with the child to see if the child could afford to keep the painting and insure it after the father’s death. If the child would not be able to handle this gift, the father may prefer to leave the painting to his favorite museum and leave some other property or a sum of money to the child instead.
Of course, once the provisions of a will or trust are revealed, it can make life very difficult for the testator. If the testator’s children are not equally provided for in the will, they may harass the testator to make him change his will. It could also cause rifts in the relationships between various family members based on which family members receive an inheritance and which family members are effectively disinherited.
A will can be changed at any time before the testator’s death. For this reason, it is important to remember that if someone decides to reveal the provisions of the will, he should probably not make any changes to the will. Changing the will can cause confusion and invite even more challenges if the beneficiaries are not aware of the changes. If the testator makes further changes after telling potential beneficiaries of prior provisions, he should consider informing the potential beneficiaries of the changes.
Testators who are unsure about whether to disclose the nature of their estate plan due to possible claims that they are incompetent or otherwise not in a position to write a valid will should discuss the grounds for will challenges with an experienced attorney.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
If you are considering writing a will, making changes to an existing will, or simply want to learn more about wills and the use of trusts for estate planning, contact Resnick Law, P.C., to consult the experienced estate planning attorneys in Bloomfield Hills and Detroit, Michigan.
(image courtesy of Farrel Nobel)