debtsEvery family has its own approach when it comes to talking about financial and legal information. Northwest Iowa will and trust lawyers see everything from very open and transparent situations to those where discussions of money are considered taboo. In reality, families who are at the estate planning phase should be having at least some superficial conversations about these topics, as there is significant information which needs to be shared just to make the estate plan work smoothly.


In many families, it is not unusual for one spouse to have a significant influence over financial and legal affairs. This may be the person who does all or the majority of the planning with the estate planning attorney. Yet, just because one spouse is more knowledgeable about family finances doesn’t mean the other spouse shouldn’t be involved in the process at all.

At a minimum, the other spouse needs to know where and how to access important documents which have been created with the estate planning attorney. The living will, medical directives, deeds, wills and trusts, and financial and insurance papers should all be accessible with short notice by either spouse. Likewise, both need to have legal access and keys to safe deposit boxes and combinations to home safes.

…with Children?

Along those same lines, children (especially grown children) may also need to be able to access those same documents in case of emergency or death. It is not uncommon for parents to name a child as the executor of a will, trust or estate. When doing so, it is highly recommended to talk this over with the person you’ve chosen. You want to be sure he or she is willing and able to carry out the tasks properly when the time comes.

Again, this person will need access to your important financial documents, whether they are held in a special binder at home, at the bank, or you have them accessed through your estate planning attorney’s office. The amount of information you disclose about what is in the financial documents is up to you, but it might be a good idea to at least give the executor a heads up about what to expect.

If you’re not the CIA, You Shouldn’t Have Secret Agents

Just as it is important to share with your future executor about your plans, you also want to have some important discussions with those you choose to have power of attorney over your affairs should you become incapacitated. These individuals will be in charge of your finances, but more importantly, they can be in charge of your health and well-being.

You’ll want to ensure these people are not only willing to take on the responsibility, but you have thoroughly discussed your wishes with them. Your medical directives and/or living will is a great place to lay out many of your concerns and desires, but actually talking to your personal representative will give him or her a better understanding of what you want and why. This can make decisions easier on their part when a certain treatment, procedure, or other choice falls into a “gray area” which you didn’t specifically discuss.

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