Creating an estate plan is a very personal matter; the planning party usually consists of you, your partner, and your attorney. Although you may consider and provide for your extended family, they are not often a part of the planning process itself. However, there are some circumstances under which estate planning should be a family affair—perhaps even a multi-generational one.

Planning as an extended family has its time and place. This year the the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption means that more people than ever are bringing multiple generations of the family into the attorney’s office to talk about making gifts before the end of the year. But the GST tax exemption is not the only reason extended families might want to plan as a whole unit. Here are some other specific situations in which families might want to consider multi-generational planning:

  • Planning for succession within a family business.
  • When multiple generations of families own property together.
  • If the family is responsible for significant debt.
  • If a family has a history of supporting certain charitable foundations and desires to continue doing so.
  • To provide for family members who live out of the country.
  • To make provisions for a non-traditional family situation, such as unmarried partners.

Planning with your extended family doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to create a private plan for you and your spouse as well. It is quite possible to create individual estate plans for each nuclear family while still respecting the decisions that the extended family made together. Of course, this process will be made much easier if the extended family and each nuclear family works with the same attorney, but it is certainly not necessary so long as each attorney and family is willing to communicate and act together.

If you aren’t sure if you should plan privately for your family or include your whole multi-generational unit in the process, give our office a call. We can help you look down the road ahead and create a plan of action that will make every member of your family feel secure.