The Importance of Family Meetings to Estate Planning
One thing we in the estate planning business are always trying to do is to get families to speak to each other. Regardless of the issue, whether it's trusts or the will or end-of-life care, the entire family will be affected, so they should all have input into the process. For example, when you're talking to some parents about setting up trusts for their children, there's a good chance they'll be worried about an issue or two, but they won't want to bother the children about their decision.
Or worse, they may be excited about what they plan to do for one child, but scared to death about one or more of the other children. Whatever the problem, it's important to make sure everyone who will eventually be a part of the process understands the process and isn't blind-sided, so we ask a lot of questions about the family and we encourage people to have at least some family meetings, to explain to everyone what will happen and to resolve issues now, because if there are issues and they remain hidden, when they actually come up, it's too late to do anything about it.
Besides, most of the time, family meetings to discuss issues that many figure are too difficult to talk about are usually not as bad as people think. Most of the time, issues are put on the agenda, and everything is discussed respectfully and thoroughly, and people who were assumed to not be on board were actually brought on board. There is usually a lot more understanding than anyone thought.
The purpose of the family meetings has to be to educate the children, but it's also important for the children to educate the parents, and to make everyone realize the long-term goals of the estate plan. But these meetings can also go a long way toward building better relationships among everyone involved. Being able to discuss everything while you're still alive can make everyone happier and prevent litigation during the probate process, which is great for everyone.