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Talking to children about estate planning

Talking to Children About Estate Planning

After creating an estate plan, parents may be filled with many concerns. While it is common to worry whether a child will make wise decisions when spending an inheritance, some parents also worry that children will be upset after learning about certain estate planning decisions the parent has made. As a result, some parents decide to share certain details about their estate plans with their children.

Other parents decide that it is only fair to disclose everything. In the end, the decision about how much to share is a personal one, but parents should realize that this information can have an impact on children.

You might have one child who you feel is more responsible than the others, or you might take the perspective that all of your children should make joint decisions. Regardless of the approach that you take, it is important to consider some important issues when sharing details about your estate plan with your children.

Communicate Who is in Charge

Your loved ones must know who is in charge in case you become incapacitated or pass away. While you might think that hiding this detail will keep your loved ones happy, it is likely to result in more heated debates later about whether you wanted the appointed party to make decisions for you. Not to mention, the person you want to be in charge should know that he or she is in charge and understand how to access the documents that are critical to your estate plan. 

Consider Whether You Want to Hide Asset Distribution Details

The answer to whether you should hide details about your intended asset distribution is a much grayer area. If assets are to be equally distributed among your children, there is likely little harm in revealing these details. If you plan on passing on assets in an equal manner, keeping these details might avoid undue drama until after your death.

Conversely, not being forthcoming about unequal distribution might increase the chances that your loved ones later end up fighting about your intent for asset division. At the very least, you should document the motivation behind these changes so that they can be shared with your loved ones after you pass away.

Avoid False Expectations

One of the most common situations in which passionate estate planning disputes occur is when one child expects to inherit a much larger amount in a parent’s estate than he or she actually does. If this situation, giving the child a reasonable expectation of what will happen with your estate while you are still alive is the best way to avoid serious fights later on.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

It is an easy mistake to think that estate planning ends as soon as you create the necessary documents. In reality, there are often several important steps to address after estate planning documents are written. If you need the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney to navigate this process, do not hesitate to contact Dworken & Bernstein.

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