Saturday, June 7, 2014
Should you tell your kids what your will says?
Posted by Lynne Butler
My friends at the blog called www.allaboutestates.ca have recently been discussing the question of whether a parent who makes a will should talk to his or her kids or other family members about what is in the will. There are two short articles that I believe will give some food for thought on that question.
The first article - click here to read it - is by Paul Fensom, who is of the opinion that parents should disclose the contents of their wills to their kids. Mr. Fensom gives some examples of why and when it's a good idea.
The second article - click here to read it - is by Elaine Blades, and is an excellent follow-up to Mr. Fensom's point of view. Ms. Blades' position is that sometimes it's a good idea to tell the kids what's in the will, and sometimes it's not. She adds some excellent suggestions about when it's a good idea to disclose, and when it is not.
I am not in favour of always telling the kids what's in the will. I have found that people tend to hear what they want to hear, and to interpret words in the way that favours them the most. When a parent says "I'm going to be fair to everyone", the child (no matter the age) hears that nobody is going to get a cent more than anyone else from the will. That may not be what the parent meant at all.
In a lot of estate litigation, you hear family members saying things like "Mom always said she would treat us all the same", as well as "Mom always said I didn't have to pay back the money she loaned me" and other sentences that Mom supposedly uttered on a regular basis. At the same time, siblings of the person saying these things will have an opposite memory or understanding of what Mom said.
Because of this, I don't believe that the contents of a will should be tossed out in general conversation while everyone is watching TV or barbecuing in the back yard. If the parents want to discuss their wills with their kids, by all means, they should do so. But it should be a focused conversation in which the parents can fully discuss their plans and ensure that everyone understands what's going on.