VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Keeping the family informed while planning an estate

Open communication can be one of the most important steps for Florida families when preparing an estate plan. Vehicles like certain types of trusts, life insurance investments and family limited partnerships can be important mechanisms for wealth transfer across generations.

For people with high-value estates, planning for transition can be a complex process involving a strong professional team dealing with the tax, financial and legal aspects of the plan. However, despite their best efforts, the transition can be deeply damaging to family harmony and even to the estate itself, with large amounts of assets lost in disputes and contests.

When heirs are unprepared for taking over the estate, it can lead to a lack of communication and trust. Many parents who are planning to pass on their estates have a great deal of concern about family values, togetherness and ideas about wealth. However, when there is a lack of discussion of these issues, it can be difficult to fully prepare heirs for the challenges and decisions that will follow.

Some suggestions include a plan for informing heirs about the estate plan itself, including the will and other documents. Many heirs are not aware of their family's net worth until they have responsible decisions to make, and an earlier introduction to this information could be important. Another issue that people planning their estates may wish to consider is introducing heirs to the estate planning team, including the attorney, accountant and other professionals. An estate planning attorney can provide counsel to families seeking to plan their future through wills, trusts and other vehicles.

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