Relational Estate Planning: How It’s Different and Why It Requires More of Us

Relational estate planning uses your end-of-life plan to focus on your loved ones’ well-being, rather than just making a plan to distribute your assets. It’s an entirely different mindset than traditional estate planning. And while it still uses legal tools like wills, trusts, etc., relational estate planning accomplishes much more for your family than typical estate planning. Take a look at some of the main differences below:

As you start to understand what relational estate planning can do for your loved ones, it’s exciting and hopeful. You begin to grasp that the end of your life can be filled with meaning and purpose, and can give enormous gifts to the people you love. 

But you’ll also start to see that relational estate planning can get pretty involved and requires a lot of forethought and work on your part. After all, managing relationships is a lot more complicated than managing dollars and cents.

Here is the deal about this vision: it is not for the faint of heart. It takes a person of a certain character to really follow through and carry out a plan that is more about addressing relationships than money. You’ll need 5 qualities in particular to create and implement relational estate planning.

5 Qualities You Need To Create A Relational Estate Plan


Are you dedicated to the people you love, enough so to put the work into this kind of plan? Are you committed to sorting through different estate planning options and how they’ll affect your loved ones so that you can choose the route that is best for your individual relationships? Are you okay with this being a process and not an event? It takes time, and, sometimes, multiple strategizing sessions, along with the dedication to reviewing your plan on a semi-regular basis to make sure it still applies to your situation. 

If you want estate planning to be quick, convenient, and checked off your list, relational estate planning might not be for you. 


This might seem obvious, but it takes a lot of kindness to care for some family members, doesn’t it? Sometimes love requires us to be kind when others misunderstand what we are doing, have used us, or have views of life that are vastly different than ours or are offensive to us. If you have a difficult loved one that you want to care for but also struggle with, it takes true kindness to set those things aside and do what is best for them. 

Sometimes, kindness also looks like tough love, instead of just doing what someone else expects you to do at the end of your life. True kindness often requires a lot of backbone. Are you ready to be kind, even if it’s going to be difficult? 


Don’t confuse relational estate planning with niceness or making things easy for someone. You might have to make a hard call (this goes along with true kindness), and making that call is going to require insight – the perception of what someone else truly needs.

For example, a family member may have financial struggles. But if they have a spending problem or an addiction, you must have the wisdom not to leave them a big old pile of money that is easily accessible, which would end up hurting them rather than helping them. To know what the people you love need, you’ll have to really see them. Tune in to who they are and where they are at in life, then ask yourself what you can do that will actually benefit them.


Can you be honest with yourself about where your loved ones are at and what they need? You might have the insight to see it, but if someone you love is not in a good place, can you reconcile with that in your mind? Being as honest with yourself as you can be will help you do what’s best for them.

Here’s another way you’ll need honesty: relational estate planning requires a lot of communication between you and your loved ones. Are you willing to be honest with them about the end-of-life decisions you make for yourself and your assets, and about why you’ve decided what you have? If you are doing what you believe is best, but you know someone else is not going to like it, can you still value communication and honesty with that person?


All of the first four qualities have an element of selflessness to them, which is the quality that really sums up relational estate planning. Creating a plan that is about other people’s well-being and not just your own has self-sacrifice written all over it. You’re making a plan that goes into effect after you die – you yourself are never going to see it happen. It’s going to require a lot from you, and you have to ask yourself if you believe it’s worth it. 


Let us encourage you. We have seen relational estate planning change lives time and again. We’ve seen that the confidence and peace of mind people reap regarding their loved ones is more than enough reward for the work they put in. If you are willing to exhibit these five qualities, you can create a plan that nurtures, strengthens, and uplifts your loved ones for years to come.

To learn more about the specifics of relational estate planning, click here, or contact us to set up a free consultation so we can chat about it in person.