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November 30, 2020

Communicating Your Estate Plan to Trusted Family Members

If you have already executed your estate planning documents to ensure your assets and loved ones are protected upon your death, you have completed a very important step. Another important but frequently overlooked step in the planning process is communicating that plan to trusted family members or nominated fiduciaries. Far too often, families endure additional hardships and, in some cases, expenses due to a lack of communication regarding their loved one’s estate plan.

If you, like many, have found that your estate plan has not been communicated to someone other than your spouse or significant other, consider taking the following steps:

  • Determine which family member(s) you would like to entrust with the details of your estate plan.
  • Determine how much information you feel comfortable sharing.
  • Have an open conversation with your family member(s), and remember to update them as your estate plan changes.

Consider sharing the date of your most recent last will and testament, power of attorney, and health care proxy along with the name and contact information for your attorney. If you feel comfortable sharing more, it is helpful to provide them with a copy of the will and information pertaining to the location of other important documents that may be useful during the administration of your estate. Additionally, if you have a trusted advisor (e.g., accountant, financial planner) who knows you well and you are willing to discuss confidential matters in their presence, it may be appropriate to have the trusted advisor participate in estate planning discussions.

It is also recommended that nominated fiduciaries are made aware of their appointment in an effort to prepare themselves for the important and inevitable responsibility they will need to take on.

In an effort to mitigate additional stress and unnecessary costs, virtually all Barclay Damon trust and estate clients choose to store their original last wills and testaments in our secure vaults. Aside from the security benefits, storing a will in our vault avoids a potential legal nightmare for a client choosing to keep their original will in their house. If the original will were lost or destroyed accidently in a fire or otherwise, a potential presumption that the client intended to revoke their will could wreak havoc on the client’s estate plan.

Local obituaries are reviewed daily by our team and compared against the wills currently held at the firm. If a will in our care belongs to a decedent, family members are contacted to confirm the existence of a will and offered legal support and advice if needed at any time.

You put great thought and time into your estate plan. Make sure your family is able to honor your wishes. Barclay Damon understands that although this is an important conversation to have, it is also a very difficult one. Our Trusts & Estates Practice Area works tirelessly to ensure families are prepared and no question is left unanswered. At any time during your estate planning process, we welcome questions and concerns from you and your family.

Many thanks to Lauren Haas, a paralegal in the firm’s Rochester office, for her efforts in the creation and preparation of this article. Lauren’s observation of a family friend going through a difficult time due to many of the reasons discussed above following the loss of a loved one compelled her to raise this important topic.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this blog post, please contact Tim Muck, partner, at tmuck@barclaydamon.com, or another member of the firm’s Trusts & Estates Practice Area.

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