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Should you tell adult children what's in your will?

It is prudent to have a viable estate plan in place to avoid passing unnecessary costs down to your heirs. But should you divulge the details of your will to your adult children during your lifetime?

In most instances, estate-planning professionals suggest that you do. This can be especially helpful if your estate plan doesn't involve equal distribution of the estate among your children. You may have valid reasons for any disparities, but it is better to share them with each of your children now rather than have them learn at the reading of the will.

That way, you can explain your reasons for distributing your estate as you plan to, answer any questions and address their complaints. Doing so now can reduce the level of friction between the siblings after you have passed.

Sometimes clients intend to leave a substantial portion of their estate to a charitable organization rather than disperse it all to their children. Sharing these decisions with the kids now can avoid dashed expectations. Make sure that you also include discussions of your values and feelings toward inherited wealth over the course of the children's lives so that they can better comprehend your decision.

Some people are undone by wealth. If one or more of your children has proven unable to manage their fiscal affairs or has had problems with alcohol, drugs or gambling, you may want to incorporate a spendthrift trust into your estate plan. It's better to prepare them now for this eventuality so that you can explain that you are doing so in order to ensure that they derive the most benefit from their inheritances.

If the very idea of such a discussion is off-putting to you, schedule an appointment with your estate-planning professional that also includes your heirs. He or she can answer questions and serve as a neutral buffer should a dispute arise at your news.

Source:, "The Hardest Part of Making a Will: Telling Your Kids What's in It," Rick Kahler, accessed Feb. 02, 2018

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