Once you’ve finished making your Estate Plan who should you tell? Should you keep it a secret? Should you call up an old friend and trust him with all the details?

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to this question! A lot depends on your individual family scenario and your personal preferences. Most people think an Estate Plan should be kept a secret between them and their attorney. You might not want your beneficiaries or children to know about your true net worth or distributions they’ll receive at your death.

Sometimes it is best not to let beneficiaries know the details of your Estate Plan for emotional reasons. You can change your Estate Plan without worrying about a beneficiary knowing you reduced his share. If a beneficiary was receiving a bigger share in the original Estate Plan, there’s a chance he will challenge the updated Estate Plan that has reduced his share.

Yet, some people like to share their entire Estate Plan with their loved ones for peace of mind. If you decide to share your Estate Plan with your family ensure that you have understood what each legal clause means so that you are able to explain them to your family correctly. If you are unaware, contact the attorney who drafted your plan.

Some people even use an Estate Plan as a ‘controlling tool’ with beneficiaries. For example, in some family situations, dad might tell his children that they’ll receive a certain share of his estate only if they behave in a particular manner.

Essentially, it all depends on your individual family and personal situation. You alone can decide whether you should or should not share your Estate Plan. Of course, your fiduciaries will know you’ve made an Estate Plan, because you’ll want to check with them before you name them as fiduciaries.

Remember, you always have the option of letting people know that you have an Estate Plan without telling them all the details. If you choose this option, then at a minimum you should just let your loved ones and family members know:

  • You have made an Estate Plan
  • Where you intend to store the documents
  • Your estate planning attorney’s name and contact information

Complete secrecy about the fact that you have an Estate Plan is rarely a good idea, because it has the potential to create legal problems after your death. But who you should discuss your Estate Plan with and how much you tell them is a personal choice – there is no right or wrong answer.