Planning with Personality by Jackie Marie Howard Trust & Probate Attorney

Families are Interesting

Estate planning involves more than documents such as trusts, wills, and powers of attorney.  It expands beyond deciding who will be the Executor or Trustee of the estate.  Estate planning includes the history and personalities of the family involved.

It would be difficult to practice estate law without learning about the psychology of a client’s family.  I find it interesting. 

It is helpful when a client recognizes and understands his own family dynamics.  Identifying the specific issues within the family means the client isn’t making estate decisions based upon an unfounded notion that “everything will be fine” after death.  Instead, the client is more realistic about
relationship challenges; thereby, he gets better risk reducing results in the estate plan.

Hopefully All Goes Well

 Don’t get me wrong.  I hope that everything goes well for beneficiaries in an estate.  However, a false preconceived idea now about the future can prevent a client from clearly assessing the situation.  Thus, their estate choices may not accomplish the goals in the manner preferred.

For example, naming the eldest child as Trustee or Executor just because he is the eldest may not be the best choice.  I see many difficulties occur when an estate has more than one child and one of them is in charge of the estate as Trustee or Executor.  That child may be trustworthy, a good money manager, and intent on carrying out his parent’s wishes.  However, being a Trustee or Executor requires more than money smarts and trustworthiness.  The child may not be the best communicator, mediator, or manager of the beneficiaries; therefore, he loses control over the
balance in the family relationships.  This in turn can cause even the smallest and “simplest” of estates to take a turn toward litigation.

Consider All Hints of Personalities

 You know the personalities of your children or beneficiaries better than the attorney who is creating your estate plan.  The family personalities should be part of the conversation with the estate attorney.  There are no “right” or “wrong” answers, but not considering the dynamics can place an obstacle in the family’s ability to reach harmony during estate administration. 

It is important to consider family dynamics when creating a plan.  That way your estate goals will be better served and, hopefully, the family will be positioned to grow closer together in their time of grief and loss.

If you would like to learn more about estate planning or are looking for assistance with an estate, contact Roseville Estate Attorney, Jackie Marie Howard,  at (916) 773-7373 or