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Tips for collaborating with others in estate planning

Although estate planning revolves around many personal decisions, the process can involve many others. One’s spouse, children and even grandchildren can become very embroiled in the process; for example, agreeing on who will be executor or act as Power of Attorney involves conversations with the selected parties to ensure they are interested in the role. California adults who are entering the estate planning process with one or more other people, such as a spouse, parent or child, should keep these tips in mind:

  • Remind everyone that the central goal is comfort and peace of mind: Estate planning can involve difficult conversations about issues that are typically kept quite private. When the process becomes uncomfortable, it can help to remind everyone involved that it will be worth working through things now for future peace of mind. After all, these issues will eventually need to be dealt with, and they are far easier to address when all parties are present and can express what they truly want.
  • Stay open-minded: Pre-existing conflict or difference of opinion can make people tentative about working on estate plans with loved ones. However, unless that conflict was directly about the assets in an estate, many people are pleasantly surprised that their loved ones may be able to put issues aside for this important discussion. This is especially true if the estate planner has an idea of what they want going into the conversation. Although it is reasonable to consider the personalities in play when addressing these issues, the benefit of the doubt can go a long way.
  • Ask questions about probate and taxes: Deciding on beneficiary designations is about more than “who gets what.” There are significant tax and probate implications for how an estate plan is set up and what mechanisms are used. Transfer on death designations, trusts and other tools are important to fully understand and consider when creating a sensible estate plan.

It is important to remember that, even though communication with others is key in estate planning, the decisions ultimately come down to individual values, goals and dreams. Balancing the desire to keep everyone informed and comfortable with these individual wants can often be easier than people think, but challenges do exist. Involving a California divorce lawyer early on, and asking them which conversations are most important to include others in, is an important step.

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