It is not only the person who seeks to create an estate plan in Texas who has expectations about the distribution of their assets after their death. In many instances, the potential heirs and beneficiaries also have expectations as to the possible inheritances in estate planning documents. When those individuals find that they have been left out of an estate plan, emotions can run high.
In fact, if a person who has been involved with estate planning has not discussed its contents with their potential beneficiaries, the incidence of probate litigation can be higher. This is because, good or bad, surprises in the estate plan can cause loved ones to be unsettled, potentially leading to tension and stress. The sense of surprise that they have not been included in an estate plan can lead to a probate challenge in some instances.
However, if a discussion is had between the person creating the estate plan and potential beneficiaries, the surprise for beneficiaries may be lessened. Though no law in our state requires that a family member be left an inheritance or be included in an estate plan, there may be such a personal expectation. A frank discussion between all parties, while not required, may benefit many families.
Having a discussion about the contents of estate planning documents can help to alleviate surprise for heirs and beneficiaries. Though it may be difficult to have such a discussion with family members, the details may help to lessen confusion and hurt feelings when it comes time to execute the estate plan. For many Texas families, such conversations are a relief and an important part of creating a successful estate plan. If families find it difficult to discuss estate planning, they may benefit from seeking an objective party who can guide them through the process.
Source: CNBC, "Who's Watching Your Money," Paul O'Donnell, Sept. 30, 2012