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Something to talk about: Discussing an estate plan with children

Estate planning can be a very difficult topic for New York parents to approach. People do not exactly enjoy making plans for after they have died so it can be an easy discussion to put off. But while it is true that many people feel uncomfortable discussing what will happen to their homes, money and other assets after they are gone, having an estate plan in place can be crucial, especially when children are involved.

Parents who have an estate plan in place are taking steps to make the process of estate administration easier on their children. Wills, trusts, business plans, powers of attorney and advanced medical directives can be vital pieces of a plan that gives children a roadmap to help them through an already difficult process.

But one thing that parents should remember is that having these in place may not be enough; they should also consider discussing their plans with children in advance. Sharing this information openly can solve a few problems before they even start.

Discussing the details of an inheritance, for example, can help manage expectations. Parents and children may not see eye-to-eye on what finances will be distributed, so discussing it can clear up any misconceptions. It can also be a good way to discuss what an inheritance may be spent on. If a parent does not want a child to spend it on certain things, discussing these terms in advance can help a parent feel more confident about how that money will be used.

Open communication can also give children the opportunity to ask questions about the terms of an estate plan. After a person is gone, those questions can go unanswered or, even worse, answered incorrectly by a person who misinterprets a person's intentions.

Working with an attorney to have a clear and comprehensive estate plan in place can be an excellent decision. But discussing that plan with loved ones and children can be a good way of defining goals, addressing concerns and clarifying intentions.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Kids and Money: If you plan to leave an inheritance, manage expectations," Steve Rosen, Oct. 14, 2013

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