Berman & Asbel, LLP

How to talk to children about an estate plan

Pennsylvania parents who are working on their estate plan may have heard that communication with family members is an important aspect. However, it should be approached carefully. It is not a conversation that should be sprung upon people, and generally, the details of estate planning cannot be covered in one conversation. People may have preferences as to how they would like to conduct the conversation. For example, some families may prefer one-on-one conversations while others might want to have a family conference. A video conference is an option in family with far-flung members.

Experts suggest that the conversation should be part of an ongoing one parents have throughout their lives with their children as they try to pass on their values regarding savings and debt. However, parents who have not done so can still start by discussing values rather than specifics. It is also important to talk about who will be appointed as the decision maker for health care and who will be given a financial power of attorney as well as who will be the executor.

Parents should also find out what their children want. This should include sentimental belongings. If the conversation on any of these topics begins to go badly, it might be necessary to opt for preparing a will or trust without input and including a letter explaining the decisions that have been made.

Making an estate plan is important for all adults, but it is particularly crucial for parents. The estate plan may need periodic updates throughout the parents' lives as their children grow older and assets and the family changes. For example, when the children are minors, parents may want to appoint a guardian and put money in a trust. An attorney can be of assistance of conducting a periodic review of the documents and updating them when and as appropriate.

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