So, you are a Florida resident who has created a comprehensive estate plan, complete with trusts, appropriate division of property and provisions to prevent over-taxation. You have worked in cooperation with a qualified attorney to ensure that your will execution will go off without a hitch. Do not look twice, but you might have forgotten an important step in this process if you have not communicated your wishes to your family.

One attorney tells the story about a man who thought he was fully prepared. He fell ill one day, and his children were unable to help him manage his health and financial affairs because they could not locate his estate documents. The man told his children only that “things would be taken care of.” He had not communicated any of the specific provisions in his will. As a result, the man’s children were torn between caring for him during his illness and meeting with attorneys to determine the best financial and legal options.

The man could have avoided all of these dramatic events by simply having a family meeting with his relatives. Many of these meetings take an hour or less, according to attorneys, and they can save significant heartache during an unexpected health emergency. The client and his or her attorney can sit down with other relatives to explain the provisions contained in the estate plan.

Clients may feel nervous about these meetings. This could be because of the contents of the will — a child that is left out of the will because he or she could not handle the financial responsibility, for example — or simply the process of acknowledging the inevitability of one’s death. Still, the family meeting can alleviate most of these fears while helping family members feel more comfortable about the client’s directives. Even unsavory provisions can be understood within the context of the estate plan. Attorneys urge clients to explain their estate plans to those who will be executing them in order to prevent frustration.

Luis E. Barreto