This is a question that many clients ask us. There isn’t a clear answer as it often depends on your family dynamics and the decisions you made in your estate plan. A good plan is to tell your children that you have completed an estate plan, where to find it and who to call. This gives loved ones peace of mind that you have taken care of your affairs. How much you tell them after that, is up to you.
Perhaps you have one child that everyone in the family recognizes as the responsible and financially mature member and everyone agrees Sally is the right choice as Successor Trustee. In this case, perhaps your other children are relieved they will not be serving as trustee. Everyone understands and supports your decision. In other scenarios, parents are concerned that if they choose one child over another, the children will be upset because there is an existing strained relationship between the children. In such case, it may be best to wait until you have the opportunity to have all of your children present to discuss your decisions.
Often clients want to know if they have to tell their children how much they are worth. No! Your children have some idea based on your home, your lifestyle, etc. but they don’t need to know any precise amount. You want your children to be contributing members of society and not expect to receive an inheritance and make decisions relying on this expectation.
Lastly, should you give your children a copy of your estate plan? Again, there is not a clear answer here. If you are in a position where your children will need to step-in in the near future to serve as Successor Trustee, Power of Attorney or make your health care decisions, it is advisable to provide that child with a copy of the estate planning documents. Otherwise, you may provide your children with a copy of your Advance Health Care Directive. You do not need to provide them with copies of your living trust until they need to serve as Successor Trustee. Remember, your estate plan is revocable! If you change it, you need to make sure they have the updated version.