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Speaking with your family about your estate

On Behalf of | May 10, 2023 | estate planning |

Wills, powers of attorney, trusts and other legal documents can help assure that property is allocated in accordance with a person’s wishes after they die, and that their financial and health care instructions are followed if they ever become incapacitated. But estate planning is often put off until it is too late or there is an emergency. Having loved ones begin this process to implement their wishes requires early planning and communication.

Start early

These conversations are more effective if they are held earlier and before there is an illness or emergency. Waiting longer becomes very complicated, especially when the person dies or becomes incapacitated.

Getting family members involved earlier encourages them to participate in the estate plan and assists with its implementation. Getting their input helps determine what should be in their will or other estate documents.

The conversation

Conversations should be brief and understanding. Family visits or holiday gatherings are good opportunities to discuss this issue.

Remind relatives that it is important to plan ahead to assure that their wishes are protected on such issues as financial support or care of underage children and that their legacies are carried out.

Overscheduling and completing legal documents during this conversation may be counterproductive. Also, a lawyer’s assistance can help assure that these documents are drafted correctly and comply with Maryland law.


Preparing legal documents without your loved one’s participation and merely presenting them for their signature is wrong. They should participate in the planning and drafting conversations for these documents so that their wishes are properly interpreted and understood.

Wills can contain their directions and wishes on these types of issues:

  • Ownership and management of any business they own.
  • Who becomes the legal guardian of underage children.
  • Ownership of major assets such as the home, vehicles or valuable heirlooms.
  • The person who will serve as estate executor.
  • Dividing money among relatives and heirs and whether its use will be restricted to purposes such as education or home purchases.
  • Any money being donated to charity.
  • Establishment of a living trust.

Common errors

Mortality and the allocation of a person’s belongings are difficult issues. This planning may go better if these mistakes are avoided:

  • Making the conversation and planning about the heirs’ and beneficiaries’ wishes or needs.
  • Accepting the role of trustee or executor if you are unwilling or unqualified.
  • Being pushy, disrespectful or temperamental.
  • Excluding family members.
  • Being an incentive to the person’s age.
  • Ignoring their background and generational differences.
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