That’s a question Bryan Bishop eventually gets around to asking every prospective client who comes in for a will or estate plan. As the client is recovering from the shock, Bryan reassures them, “Every family has them.”
Think about your skeletons. What are they? The loving son who can’t manage money. The brilliant, strong aging parent you suspect has undiagnosed dementia. The kind daughter who can’t say no. The addicted grandson. A second wife you love, but whose son you consider immoral. An in-law you dislike or distrust. Mental illness, secret HIV, a hidden mistress for whom you’d like to provide. Maybe even an unacknowledged child of your own. The IRS lien on the family farm. The list goes on and on.
And heaven forbid you die without a will.
Why does your lawyer need to know all this stuff? The short answer is to prevent war from breaking out before your body is cold.
Think this doesn’t apply to you? Consider the parade of horribles: Shocked and disappointed would-be heirs race to court. They challenge the will (you weren’t in your right mind; the will or trust is a fraud; an earlier will is the real will; you were unduly influenced). They sue your chosen personal representative. They sue the trustees. They sue each other. And all the secrets come out. Five years later your estate remains undistributed and half of it has disappeared into the pockets of trial lawyers and accountants.
We are not making this up. We get called to mediate similar court cases all the time.
The deeper, more positive reason to disclose is so that your true wishes will be carried out. Trusts and other arrangements can be set up to protect the privacy you sought and provide for contingencies you feared. Your legacy will be experienced as love by those you loved in life. Your care for them during your life will continue after your death. And those you leave behind will continue to be “family” to each other rather than enemies.
© Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carolyn Parr and Beyond Dispute Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.