Discussing your succession planning with your loved ones
Paul Brennan is the principal of Brennans Solicitors, a law firm located on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, where he practices with his wife, Diane in the areas of business law, litigation, property and wills/estates.
Over the years, by working in various countries, he noticed how similar the law can be. He set out to explain the law in a simple and often humorous way.
I am often asked if you should reveal the content of your Will to your adult children. In a perfect world my answer would be absolutely not. This will allow you to change your will for petty reasons, e.g. that they did not ask you to lunch, without upsetting them or appearing senile. If the reason for changing your Will is a good one, inform them after the Will has been changed that they have lost out. The more money that they think you have the more satisfying you may find this. You can always change it back later.
However, as clients get older and their fortunes greater, they come under increasing pressure from their adult children to reveal “Who to?”, “How much?” and in some families “How Long?”. Trying to reason with an adult child that their “utterly useless” sibling is more deserving, is not usually accepted as a valid reason for the loss or reduction of their rightful inheritance. Where a step mother or step child is involved such explanations will fall on deaf ears.
If you tell each of your adult children that they shall receive their full share whether or not that is true, you may later come under pressure to produce the Will.
The solution is for your lawyer to produce several Wills in different terms. The appropriate Will can be left around the house on a visit by an adult child. A little bit like changing the photographs on display. To stop your children conferring each must say that everything is left to that particular child.
As a Will provides that any previous will is invalid, it is just a matter of having the will that you really want to be dated later than the bogus wills and kept safely at your lawyer’s office.
In these circumstances, a child that has lost out may challenge your will on the grounds of your insanity. However, most judges will accept that you were driven to distraction by your children. Not an uncommon occurrence.
Extract from "A LEGAL GUIDE TO DYING-baby boomer edition."
© Paul Brennan 2008. All Rights Reserved.