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Should you discuss your Will with your children and, if so, when and how?

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If you are a ‘Walton’s family, how do you decide which of your adult children should be appointed as your Enduring Power of Attorney?

It is a tricky decision for many parents, given that it is better to have as few as possible and not the whole lot of them. At the same time, you don’t necessarily want to put noses out of joint but, inevitably, some may have to miss out from being anointed. That can create family tension.

But will the chosen ones be any good at the job? – The role is not just being a decision maker for you. It comes with an added dimension – keeping peace and harmony with the other children who have been overlooked for the position.

In a previous article, I suggested that, before deciding on which children to appoint, you should audition them, or put them on a casting couch, to assess their suitability for the part. PS – We use a casting couch checklist.

Should you take a similar approach with your Will?

Is revealing your thoughts on your Will to them before you do it (or even after you’ve done it), a good idea?  Indeed, why do it at all? As most of them will only see it for the first time after you have gone to Heaven, what benefit could it possibly have to talk about it with them before you go on your way?

Most people take the view that their Will is a very private affair, and so it is. After you die, it is unveiled, just like a plaque.

On the other hand, the legacy of your life is not just reflected in your Will but also in its impact on other people back here on earth. While Wills give things away, they can also take things away, such as your children’s relationships.

Picture it – you gather them around the kitchen table one Sunday after a happy family feast. After asking the sons and daughters in-laws to take a walk, you tell the children you have something to discuss with them. You then reveal the benefits they will receive (if any) from all your life time of hard work and child rearing.

There are two schools of thought on this approach – it could be a disaster and release pent up enmities and resentments, or it can be enlightening, a coming together and a purging of your doubts and concerns.

Using the kitchen table as a casting couch has a superficial attraction in that it can enable you, as a parent, to gauge the relationships legacy in advance. Alternatively, you may not want to know or to release the hounds.

Interestingly, of late, we have seen a trend amongst older people to include their grandchildren as beneficiaries of their Will alongside those grandchildren’s parents. It’s called a ‘bob each way’. One of the spurs to this trend is the potentially disastrous effect that Covid-19 has had, and will have, on the education and financial future of young people. To counter this concern, grandparents have shifted their will-making focus to the grandchildren.

If that is what you would like to do, it could just be a matter that you would want to raise with your children over the kitchen table. Alternatively, as in a recent case we came across, you could have (and pay for) your children to be assessed by a psychologist as to their psychological profile and likely testamentary expectations and reactions.

In the end, whether you want to bring forward your children’s reactions to your Will or wait to look down upon those reactions from on high, is for you to judge, not me. I am happy to assist you to make that judgement however.

PS – STOP THE PRESS

An important announcement from us

In these difficult and uncertain times, we think it is important that people know where they stand before embarking on some legal exercise.

For that reason, we have introduced an initial free consultation for matters involving:

  1. Estate Administration such as where you are appointed an Executor and want to know about what to do now; and
  1. Estate Litigation such as defending someone’s Will as Executor against an a challenge or, with boot on other foot, wanting to challenge a Will or even an Enduring Power of Attorney.

I know I have railed in the past about paying nothing for something and getting nothing in return but I am prepared to make an exception for us. It’s an opportunity to shed light on the issues for you without the dreary issue of legal costs hanging like a cloud over you and the discussion.

We can do no more than offer it. It’s up to you to take it (if you want).

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