In our last post, we began looking at the increasing problem of caring for elderly parents, and how this can financially affect the adult children who care for them, as well what those children can expect for an inheritance. As we've noted, adult children are often caught between a feeling of duty or a debt of gratitude to care for an aging parent and a desire to receive a handsome inheritance.
Another issue complicating the estate planning scene is the prevalence of blended families. With over half of all marriages failing and 75 percent of divorced people choosing to remarry, many families have children from previous marriages. Adult children faced with the prospect caring for a step-parent they do not care for is not an uncommon issue. Conversely, parents with children from a previous marriage often face the difficult question of how to dispose of their assets. Should they leave them to their step-children, or make sure their own children are cared for?
With the continuing poor economy and crippling student loan debts, there is also the issue of adult children caring not only for their parents, but their own children. This is an all-around difficult situation.
Whether you're talking about aging parents burning up their children's inheritance or unwelcome step-parents, there are no easy answers for how to approach estate planning. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is essential to achieving one's goals. The key is to start that planning early, to discuss it with family, and to update one's plan frequently. The older one becomes, the more frequently a plan should be updated. In addition, a power of attorney should be appointed so that decisions can be made in the event one becomes unable to make those decisions on one's own.
Even if estate planning seems like an unpleasant topic to think about, these unpleasant situations tend to resolve more pleasantly when careful planning is taken up. And the earlier the better.
Source: USA Today, "With more blended families, estate planning gets ugly," Haya El Nasser, March 15, 2012.