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Should you discuss your estate plans at your holiday gathering?

Holidays are typically a time when families gather to share meals and memories. For many families with members scattered throughout the country, it may be the only time when everyone is together all at once.

Parents of adult children may wonder if this is a good time to discuss their estate plans with their potential beneficiaries. While there is no right answer for all families, it certainly could be.

It doesn't have to be over dinner

There's no doubt that discussing your own mortality over the holiday ham could definitely cast a pall over the meal. No one likes to be reminded that death is inevitable, but it could be considered to be in questionable taste to bring it up between dinner and dessert.

However, there is nothing wrong with quietly saying to the adults present that before everyone leaves for the day (or the visit), that Mom and Dad would like to have an adults-only discussion with their children.

Why discuss your intentions?

There are many reasons why people decide to inform their heirs of their estate plans. For one, it can stave off a later legal challenge if you let everyone know what they can expect after you pass. Consider the following:

Your oldest son decided early in life to become a doctor, an ambition you fully supported and funded. Your covering the hefty tuition bills of a medical student allowed him to graduate relatively debt-free — a huge plus to a struggling young physician.

On the other hand, your daughter married soon after high school. Other than paying for her wedding, you have never gifted her with an equivalent sum of money. Upon your death, you intend to even the scales by leaving your son a modest inheritance, with the bulk of your estate going to your daughter.

If you don't inform them of your intentions — and the reasoning behind them — it's quite possible that this disbursement could foment bad blood between the siblings (or even their spouses). By announcing your plans now, you give both a chance to clear the air.

It allows your heirs to plan accordingly

By knowing what they can expect to receive upon your death, your beneficiaries can arrange their own financial plans. This can be a welcome relief, as they may have been worrying or merely wondering what their futures may hold. Even if they are dissatisfied, at least they are aware.

You can also ask which assets they prefer to receive. Does your son want the beach house with his limited time? Maybe it's a better fit for your daughter and her family. Your son might prefer your art collection or stocks from your portfolio.

Will you be discussing your estate plan with your family this holiday season? You can discuss any concerns beforehand with your Florida estate planning attorney.

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