No matter how much care you put into crafting your estate plan, if your loved ones do not know it exists (or where to find it), it will not serve its intended purpose. As a result, once you have an estate plan in place, it is critical to ensure that your family will be able to access your plan when the need arises. This applies not only in the event of your death, but if you become incapacitated during your lifetime as well.
For many people, this raises some concerns. Many people are not comfortable talking about healthcare and end-of-life planning with their loved ones, and, in some circumstances, individuals may not want their loved ones to know the terms of their estate plans until the time comes. Various circumstances can give rise to the need to modify an estate plan over time. No matter how you feel about discussing your plan’s terms, it is important to ensure that your loved ones are not left with an outdated version.
Giving Family Members Access to Your Estate Plan: Three Common Scenarios (and How to Address Them)
With these considerations in mind, how can you make sure your family can access your estate plan? Here are three common scenarios with examples of the solutions that are available:
Scenario #1: You Trust a Family Member (or Multiple Family Members) to Have Full Access to Your Estate Plan
If you trust a family member (or multiple family members) to have full access to your estate plan, one option is to simply give them that access. However, when doing this, keep in mind the possibility that you may need to modify your estate plan over time—as well as the possibility that your estate plan could end up being viewed by others. Rather than giving your family members a copy of your plan, it may be better to review the terms with them in detail and then let them know how and where they can access it in the future.
Scenario #2: You Trust a Family Member to Only Access Your Estate Plan When the Time is Right
If you only want your family members to access your estate plan when it becomes necessary for them to do so, then consider keeping your estate plan in a safe or deposit box and providing them with the code or a copy of the key. However, keep in mind that it may be beneficial to discuss certain aspects of your plan (i.e., who you have designated as your personal representative and your children’s guardian) during your lifetime.
Scenario #3: You Want to Keep the Terms of Your Estate Plan Completely Confidential
Finally, if you prefer to keep the terms of your estate plan completely confidential, you can provide a family member with your estate planning attorney’s contact information. Your attorney will keep your estate plan confidential until it needs to be used, and there will be specific requirements that will need to be met for family members to access your plan.
Speak with a New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.
If you have questions about estate planning or your estate plan’s administration, we encourage you to speak with one of our New Jersey estate planning attorneys. To schedule a confidential consultation at your convenience, please call 877-435-6371 or inquire online today.