Hamlet Had It Right

To tell or not to tell: that is the question. hamlet

Whether ‘tis better to tell 

A beneficiary about his inheritance of outrageous fortune,  

Or in anticipation of a sea of resulting troubles,  

Keep silent and, hopefully, end them?



Should you tell your beneficiaries about the contents of your Will? Some would counsel “yes,” with the thought that full disclosure will lead to immediate gratitude from the beneficiaries and minimize after-death disputes. Others would counsel “no,” because you could open the door to disputes and acrimony if the beneficiaries are disappointed in the property division or if you later change your Will.

It’s your choice, but before you decide consider the following:

  • A beneficiary named in your Will has only an “expectancy” while you are alive.   An expectancy is not an interest in property.
  • A beneficiary will “take” under your Will only if 1) he outlives you and 2) you do not change your Will.
  • You have no duty to inform your beneficiaries if you change your Will.
  • You have the right to disinherit your heirs.
  • You can dispose of your property as you wish during your lifetime, despite the contents of your Will.
  • Your attorneys and accountants work for you, and owe you a fiduciary duty. They have no duty to your beneficiaries or your heirs.   This is true even if their silence keeps your beneficiaries from having the opportunity to change your mind about the division of your estate.
  • Wills can be open to differing interpretations. Your Will is considered unique. Each Will has to be construed by itself on its own phrasing. Sir William Jones may have said it best: “No Will has a brother.”

You may change your mind several times before you “have shuffled off this mortal coil.” So think carefully before you start handing out copies of your Will.