Four things to discuss with your children about your estate plan, P.1

It may or may not come as a surprise to our readers, but one of the biggest obstacles to doing estate planning is getting people to start thinking about their passing. What can be even more difficult is getting them to talk about it with their family members. What is clear, though, from looking at successful estate plans, is that communication with one's family about such matters is very important.

Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly what issues to address with one's family. Some issues may not be as critical to discuss, while others probably should. Among the areas that probably should be discussed in advance are long term care, who will serve as executor, health care preferences and the location of one's documents.

Because being the executor of an estate is potentially a very involved task, it is best that the person to be selected knows about it in advance. They should know that they will be responsible for winding up one's estate by paying off creditors and distributing assets to those entitled to them. Knowing their duty in advance will give them time to prepare mentally and to consult an attorney about any questions they may have.

The executor, like one's other family members, should know where one's estate planning documents are located. Because there are so many ways to store documents, and because this can lead to confusion, it is best to keep all documents in at least one place and to let family members know where they are. If everybody knows where the documents are located, there is less of a chance for hard feelings over one or two people have privileged knowledge. Keeping everybody in the loop will help the plan play out more smoothly.

Source:, "What Four Estate Planning Things Parents Should Tell Their Children," Ted Jenkin, May 31, 2012.

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