Americans often feel like financial details are very private and personal. They don’t like to talk about them, even with members of their own family. This extends to estate planning.
While just how much you tell anyone is up to you, of course, there are actually some compelling reasons to talk to your children about what you plan to leave them. This is true even when you’re going to split things up evenly, but it’s especially important if you’re planning to cut someone out of the will or to leave unequal bequests.
In those final two examples, you may want a chance to explain your decision and your reasoning. Talk with your children about why one of them isn’t getting anything or why one of them is getting more (or less) than the others. You may have a great reason, but failing to tell them just makes the distribution a surprise and it can be hurtful. Talking to them in advance lets them understand your perspective and prepare for it.
This can also help to reduce the odds of a dispute between your children. If they feel shocked and hurt by the estate plan, are they going to dispute it in court or argue with their siblings about what is really fair? Are they going to resent someone who got more than them? You have to think about their relationships going forward, and giving them more information can help to preserve those relationships.
As you do your estate planning and start having these important conversations with the people in your will, take the time to consider every legal step you need to take.