A lot of California families think it's best to keep their estate planning a secret. They meet with their estate planning lawyers and create a solid plan, but they don't tell anyone about it. Although this can work in many cases, it also increases the chances that family members will try to contest the estate plan after you're gone.
If this happens, it doesn't have anything to do with the morality of your family; it's just human nature to question what's true and what's best after a loved one dies. There is, however, a way to avoid such a problem: Don't keep your estate plan a secret. Talk with your family about what you hope to do with your money after you're gone.
Here's what you should discuss:
- All contractual and/or financial obligations you've made in your estate via a previous divorce agreement.
- Your long-term goals regarding how people in your family should support one another. Maybe you're the "glue" that keeps everyone together. You should remind your loved ones to make a plan for how they're going to keep the family together after you're gone.
- Tell your family how you plan to distribute your estate and who will receive what.
- Talk about your plans for guardianship if you have children or children from other spouses.
When you offer clarity to your family -- preferably in a family meeting where everyone is sitting around the table together, it puts everyone on the same page and reduces the chances of in-fighting when you're gone. As such, be sure to make a family meeting the first step in completing your estate plan.