Your estate plan is your private business, and sharing it is solely up to you. You may share it with anyone. Many people share their Wills and Trusts with family, and some even include their family in the estate planning process. But, if you share it, don’t be surprised if the response you get is more than a simple . . . “Do what you want. It’s yours. We just want you to be happy.” Although some of your family may say this, you will probably get some “helpful” advice, too. Their advice usually includes an opinion about how you should do something different. While this feedback and advice is often innocent, it is also usually not what is best for you and for your entire family. If you think your family might give unwanted advice or pressure you about the plans you’ve made, consider keeping your plans to yourself. You know what you did in your estate plan and why you did it. You don’t have to justify your actions or motivations. You should feel confident in them and trust yourself and your estate planning attorney who helped guide you.
If you choose to share your plans, there is nothing wrong with that. Many people include their family members in the planning process. But don’t share your plans then change the plans without telling your family the plan changed. Your family’s expectations will be built upon the plans that you shared. Unmet expectations and surprises are a ripe breeding ground for anger, contempt, suspicion, and dysfunction. I’ve seen several instances where an undisclosed change of a Will or a Trust caused hurt feelings, anger, distrust, and even fights. So, if you decide to share your plans with your family, update your family if you make any changes. One of my estate planning goals is to craft estate plans that promote family harmony.