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Discussing your estate plan with your heirs

Have you discussed your final wishes with your family? Are you sure? A recent study revealed that, while many parents remember having talked to their children about their estate plan and end-of-life preferences, more than half of the children surveyed say that conversation never happened.

How is it that such an important topic of discussion is so easily missed? It is possible that, because of the gravity of the subject, you will have approached it timidly or veiled it in vague hypotheticals so that your children didn't recognize what you were trying to say. On the other hand, your children may simply be in denial, fearing to consider the time when you won't be with them any longer.

Your children still aren't listening to you

Even if you recall having a talk with your adult children about your estate plan and their roles in it, it is always a good idea to revisit and review the details from time to time. Involving your heirs in your planning process may reduce the possibility that a child will challenge your will or claim you did not intend what your estate plan says. Some essential ground to cover in your family meeting includes:

  • Who will be the executor of your estate?
  • Who will inherit which assets and why?
  • What are your wishes regarding end-of-life medical treatment?
  • What are your funeral arrangements?
  • Where have you placed your vital documents?

Even though your estate planning documents will answer many of these questions, discussing them with your family ahead of time may save confusion, hurt feelings or disputes that often arise when heirs are surprised by their parents' wishes.

A solid plan for the future

Of course, money and inheritances are not the only crucial topics of conversation when you bring your family together for an estate planning discussion. You may also wish to share your plans for establishing an advanced health care directive and an incapacity plan. Settling these issues early in life may relieve your loved ones of the burden of trying to guess what your wishes would be.

To facilitate these discussions, you will certainly want to have the answers to any of your own questions regarding your options for your estate plan. An estate planning attorney can guide you in creating a plan that will best suit your circumstances and assist you in updating and revising your documents periodically as your circumstances change.


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