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Estate planning fares best when family members are advised

Most residents of California, like people anywhere else, are reluctant to talk about their personal affairs and statuses. It may be surprising to know that the hesitancy applies also to members of their own family. That becomes problematic at times because it can be an important aspect of one's estate planning goals to assure the knowledge and understanding of one's beneficiaries.

There are many decisions that an individual or married couple must make in creating their estate plans. The process sometimes involves making difficult choices regarding which family members are to serve as trustees and executors, and determining who will be favored beneficiaries over others, among other difficult decisions. It is better to have the family members aware of these matters during the testator's lifetime. That is when sincere family discussions can clear up why certain decisions are the best for everyone involved.

The same give and take that occurs in most life decisions can be a factor in estate planning. Where a certain perceived benefit is given to one beneficiary it may be made up by another comparable benefit to another family member. The process is discretionary, but when families can discuss the pro and cons of the decisions together, they can usually come to agreement on the principles that are at play.

The alternative scenario may result in bickering among one's children and grandchildren long after the testator has been put to rest. One way to approach the subject of succession of wealth and assets from parents to children and other immediate family members is to speak in terms of family values. Where such values have been shared during one's lifetime with the children and other close family members, a spirit of cooperation and caring will be better able to surpass any feelings of personal interest. Maintaining a relationship with a California estate planning attorney, and other specialists where appropriate, is another vital component of assuring the kind of efficient and effective transition that most people desire.

Source:, "How to talk to your family about your estate plan", Paul A. Merriman, Sept. 9, 2017

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