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Who do you include in your estate plan?

At the beginning of the estate planning process, one of the big questions that a person must answer is “who is included in this plan?” Inclusion can mean someone who receives a gift, it can mean an organization that benefits from a gift, or it can mean a trusted friend, family member, or advisor named to act as executor to the will or administer a trust. People making estate plans will often figure out the answer to the question of inclusion as they go along, forming inclusion as they form the overall strategy. However, this is an important question that can be helpful to think about in advance, particularly as families are morphing and changing all the time with births, marriages, divorces, and deaths. 

For example, if someone intends to give a gift to their grandchild, will they also give a gift to that child’s parents? Or will one or both of the parents be excluded from a gift but asked to administer the grandchild’s gift while they are still under the age of 18? These two plans offer different version of including the parent, and it is important to thinks the differences through before committing them to a finalized will.

Determining who is family and what sort of gift they should get often comes down to family values. For example, some families value education above all else, so an estate plan might include gifts to pay for the education of all grandchildren for an undergraduate degree but not make those funds available for any other purposes. In other families it might seem more equitable to hand out an equal amount to each member of a particular generation, allowing them to spend it on whatever cause they see fit.

Source: Reuters, “YOUR PRACTICE-Who is family when it comes to estate planning?” Beth Pinsker, Oct. 29, 2013

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