This NY Times article from late November focuses on a film, “Black Heirlooms” that describes a family dispute over a relatively modest amount of money that ended up tearing the filmmaker’s family apart. Besides the strained family relationships, the article mentions that “money goes to lawyers that could have gone to heirs.”

That sentence resonated with me – it’s exactly what we’re trying to prevent as part of our estate planning. Although it can be difficult – especially when the parents’ wishes don’t match the desires of the children – but I strongly encourage communication between parents and their children or other loved ones regarding their wishes. Although the trust is designed to enable the trust creators’ wishes to be carried out efficiently and accurately, it really is a legal document. When parents are incapacitated or have passed, a legal document alone is often not enough to help resolve thorny issues. I often help facilitate family meetings for my clients, though which we bring in the younger generation and talk through their roles and responsibilities in the plan as well as some difficult issues that may be better addressed now rather than later.