Whether it’s by sorting through old photographs, meeting people at memorial services, or packing up personal belongings, there are always surprising discoveries after a loved one passes away, no matter how well you knew the person.
In the best cases, these surprise discoveries can be happy or illuminating. In the worst cases, they can destroy relationships and cause significant pain to people already grieving. In other words, secrets have ways of coming out, and they don’t always have a positive impact on others. This is important to recognize, especially when you are creating an estate plan, because secret information can lead to one or more of the following costly mistakes:
- Hiding your will: You want to keep your will secure, but hiding it is typically not the best answer. If your will is hidden and no one can find it when the time comes to distribute your estate, it would essentially be the same as if you never had the will to begin with.
- Not giving someone else access to your accounts: Everything from bank accounts to social media and emails are protected by passwords. To make things easier on your loved ones and the administrator of your estate, you should provide someone with login information for digital accounts so they can close them, stop auto payments or retrieve personal information. Consider also giving someone you trust access to your safe deposit box.
- Keeping the details of your estate plan completely secret: It can be uncomfortable to discuss the details of your plan with loved ones, but doing so gives them the opportunity to ask questions and get clarification. If you don’t discuss your plan with anyone, these questions and concerns can spark legal complications. A prime example is when you have decided to omit someone who would normally inherit.
- Including shocking or surprising information in a will: Revealing long-held family secrets, for example, that you have children from a prior relationship of whom your current family is unaware, can be hurtful and emotionally confusing for those you leave behind. These kinds of surprises often result in arguments and contentious litigation, costing your family time and money to resolve.
Of course, everyone has information they want to protect and keep private. However, when it comes to your estate plan, you will want to be especially careful about what you conceal, what you reveal, and how you protect sensitive information. With help from your attorney, you can work to create an estate plan that strikes a balance between each of these.