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How to discuss estate planning with the kids

Most New Jersey residents are aware of the need to create a comprehensive estate plan well in advance of actually needing those documents. That said, very few families take the time to sit down with their adult children and discuss the details of that plan, which can make it hard for children to set the plan into motion when the time comes. While no one wants to have a lengthy discussion about his or her own demise, talking to your kids about your estate planning choices is part of the overall process.

Consider a case in which the last surviving parent falls seriously ill without having discussed estate planning matters with his or her adult children. Those children must now handle the fear and anxieties of having a sick loved one, with very little guidance as to how to handle the medical or financial aspects of the situation. Even if there is a comprehensive package of medical power of attorney, living will and other directives, these tools are useless if one's children are unaware that they exist or where to look for them. If the parent dies, the situation becomes even more complicated, as the children now have to make a number of financial decisions with little or no guidance, unless they stumble across the proper documents.

The best way to address this issue is to schedule a meeting with one's children for the express purpose of discussing one's estate planning package. This gives the family the chance to explain the provisions laid out within the documents, and identify any holes where additional directives can be added. It also lets kids know exactly what to expect when their parents pass on, which can help avoid tension and conflict during what is already a difficult time.

For those in New Jersey who dread discussing estate planning matters with their children, the issue should be viewed in the context of helping them know how to proceed when the time comes. Simply drafting these documents and filing them away is not enough; those involved must be able to put their hands on the proper paperwork when needed. Each family is different, but virtually all can benefit from having a conversation about end-of-life planning.

Source: CNBC, "Most kids are clueless about parents' estate plans", Shelly Schwartz, May 26, 2015

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