Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

How much should I tell my children?

This is a question that I get quite often.  There is no correct answer.


First, your assets are your business.  You have no obligation to tell your children how you are spending your money, nor to tell them how you plan on distributing those assets at your death.

Next, legally, you do not have any requirement to give your assets to your children upon your death.  You cannot totally disinherit your spouse, however, you can leave your children either individually or collectively nothing.  It is not their inheritance until you have passed away.

This leads to the issue of what to tell your children.  If you are going to give them copies of your estate plan, then you need to continue to do this as you update the plan.  Children who believe that they are getting a certain percentage of an estate because they saw a Will or a Trust years ago will be difficult and angry if the plan was changed, they did not see the changes, and they get less upon the distribution of the estate.  This is the type of situation that leads to litigation.  Therefore, if you distribute copies of your Will or Trust to your children, make sure that you keep them updated as you make changes.

If you choose not to give them copies of your estate planning documents, what do you tell them?  Simply inform them that you have had an estate plan prepared and where you have secured the original of the Will or the Trust.

If you are planning on giving some of your estate to charity or to friends, you might want to mention this fact to your children.  Again, surprises are the situations that create anger and litigation.  If your children know that you will be giving some of your estate to charities or friends, they may not like it, but they will learn to accept it. 

Consistency is the key.