what to tell future heirs

What to Tell Your Heirs About Your Estate Planning Legal Program

Many people ask me how much should they tell their children or other heirs about their estate planning legal program.

Most of the time, I tell them that it is a personal decision. But the decision regarding what to tell your children or heirs about your estate can be broken down into two questions:

(1) Do I tell my heirs what I own (How much?)?

(2) Do I tell them why I made certain estate planning decisons (the Why)?

Regarding telling your heirs WHAT you own, there are two schools of thought. One school suggests that you NOT tell your heirs what you own because you don't want them to rely on a future inheritance and be less productive today. Or perhaps you don't tell them what you own because you plan to "spend their future inheritance."

Others, however, want their heirs to know what they own. Some parents feel it can be a good teaching moment when the children know how the parents saved and sacrificed to build an estate, and perhaps some of that can "rub off" on the children.

The bigger issue, however, is how you communicate the WHY of your decisions. If you don't communicate the WHY you made decisions, it leaves your heirs guessing, or wondering, why you did what you did.

During the estate planning process, you will be required to make many decisions. Some of the questions you will be required to answer include:

(1) Who will oversee the settling of your estate after you die (as either the "executor" or "trustee")?

(2) Who will handle your financial matters while you are alive but do not have the capacity to make your own financial decisions?

(3) Who will have the authority to make your medical decisions and access your medical records when you no longer can medical decisions for yourself?

(4) Why did you make the decision you did regarding life-sustaining procedures?

(5) If you left specific bequests to certain people, why?

(6) Regarding your grandchildren, either why or why not did you include or exclude them?

If you don't communicate your WHY, survivors are left guessing. You don't want them guessing.

So how do you communicate your WHY. Well, everyone is different. Some people communicate their WHY in a family meeting after the estate planning program is in place. Some people write a letter to their survivors explaining their WHY. Typically, it's not a good idea to expect the attorney to put your WHY in the formal legal documents.

So, you could either way regarding telling your heirs WHAT you own. But communicating your WHY, either during your lifetime, or in some communication you leave behind, can potentially keep their heirs calm and keep the survivors' relationships intact or even prosperous.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney


Phone: (225) 329-2450