A solid estate plan goes beyond a written will or other estate planning documents—it should also involve face-to-face communication. Lack of communication between family members can disrupt even the best-laid plans and could harm your family’s financial future—or worse, family relationships. A family meeting allows you to communicate your wishes for how your assets will be distributed after you’re gone. The better your loved ones understand your goals and desires, the more likely it is for the family’s intentions and estate to benefit future generations.
Your loved ones need to know there are people who can help them with the process and intricacies of managing an estate. You can ensure everyone has the contact information for your financial advisor, attorney, accountant and any other professional you consult as a trusted team member. After you’re gone, your loved ones will find it extremely helpful to be familiar and know how to coordinate with this team. Family members should also learn the location of— and know how to access—important documents, along with keys to safety deposit boxes or other storage facilities.
Even if your family has a solid estate plan, your heirs may need help navigating its implementation. At a meeting, you can ensure that your family will have the proper understanding and support in handling these tasks when you are gone. This is the time to designate an executor of the estate, who may or may not be a family member. If this person is also a healthcare proxy, make sure he or she knows what to do if you become ill or incapacitated.
A meeting can ensure that your family not only understands your wishes, but also knows precisely how they should be honored. For example, you might want to make sure a vacation home remains in the family, or specify who will receive certain treasured possessions. Managing these assets can be complicated; however, a meeting will help everyone, including you, feel more confident that your plans will be carried out successfully.
Helping others is important in the lives of many families. A family meeting allows everyone to learn which causes are closest to your heart, as well as why and how specifically identified assets will be donated after you’re gone. In some cases, charitable gifting strategies can help enhance your current estate plan.