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Should You Share Your Estate Plan With Your Family?

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Share your estate plan


You’ve done the thoughtful estate planning work we urged you to do. You signed your will, your powers of attorney — maybe you even created a living trust. Now what? Do you share your estate plan with your family?

There is neither a requirement nor a prohibition — the decision about whether to share your estate plan is entirely up to you. We do have some arguments in favor of the idea, and some arguments against it. Then it is up to you.

No, you shouldn’t share your estate plan

Estate planning documents are intensely private and personal. You would not want anyone to know exactly how you plan to distribute your estate, right? That is no one’s business but your own.

Besides, if you have made decisions about how to treat your family and friends, letting them know just invites them to lobby for changes. That could be unpleasant, and lead to further discussions and arguments.

Maybe you will hurt someone’s feelings. We will have recommended that you choose one of your children to act as trustee, personal representative (or what we used to call an executor) and agent — if the other children find out they might be upset with you. Worse yet, you might have decided to use a professional fiduciary — someone outside the family — to handle your estate. That could really upset your children, or your pushy brother, or your aunt who assumes she’s the boss of the family.

On top of all that, you’ve tried time and again to get your family involved in decision-making. They won’t let you talk about your end-of-life wishes, or choose which items of personal property they would like to receive. Whenever you raise the subject, they tell you not to be foolish — that you won’t be dying any time soon, so don’t dwell on morbid topics. OK — they can have their wish.

Yes, you should share your estate plan

Your family needs to know. It’s important for them to be able to plan for themselves, and telling them about your estate plan will help.

Perhaps you got something wrong. You left the family home to your oldest daughter — maybe it will turn out that she simply doesn’t want to live there. How will you learn about that if you don’t give her an opportunity to tell you? There could be other things you should know about before your plan becomes irrevocable.

Maybe there will be some family fights. By choosing to share your estate plan now, you can get those fights out of the way, and perhaps even minimize them. You might even get your family to talk about their wishes and work out their differences. There might be fewer differences than you thought there would be.

Consider having a family meeting to discuss your estate plan. That way everyone could hear the same information, at the same time. Problems could be ironed out. There would be a chance to smooth over hurt feelings. Everyone would know what to expect.

Family members sometimes insist that a deceased parent simply couldn’t have intended to do what they did. If you tell them otherwise while you’re still alive, you might decrease the likelihood of a contest after your death.

The family meeting option

Some of our clients want to get together with all of their children to review their estate planning documents in one sitting. We can facilitate that meeting — with your permission (and only with your permission) children and others important to your plan can be brought into a combined session. We can add distant participants by phone or video conference.

What would be the point of such a meeting? It would be a chance to share your estate plan with all of the primary participants, and to clear the air. You could view it as a chance to tweak the plan if necessary. You could also assure everyone in the meeting that the plan we discussed really is what you want.

Not every estate plan should be the subject of a family meeting. If you think it’s an interesting idea, let us know and we can set it up.

The minimum you should do

There is one thing you really do need to do, though. You need to share your estate plan with the person (or people) named as personal representative, trustee, or agent on your power of attorney.

Why is this important? Because they are the people who will need to act — and possibly to act quickly — in the event of your death or serious injury. The child named as health care agent should know that he is the one who needs to come to your side immediately if you are hospitalized. If a different child is named as personal representative (executor), she should know that she will need to secure your home and contents upon your death.

One more thing: share your health care power of attorney with your primary care physician. Give a copy to any hospital or other health care facility you have used in recent years. Share this document with your health care agent, and use the occasion for a conversation about your wishes.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.