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Estate Planning: A Project for the Whole Family

July 1, 2010

The objective of all estate planning is to pass your property to your loved ones at the lowest possible cost.  Additionally, once your property is in the hands of your loved ones, your planning should take advantage of strategies that will help protect your property long after you are gone.  In other words, all estate planning focuses on your children or loved ones.  Therefore, an effective estate plan should involve not only you and your spouse, but also your children and other beneficiaries of your estate plan.

Because all estate planning is essentially a gift to your children, it is essential that the children play an active role not only in the planning process, but also in the administration of your plan in the event of a death or disability.  For example, a good estate plan should be designed to protect property, save taxes and costs, while keeping you and your spouse in complete control of your property.  But for the vast majority of us, there will come a day when we are not able to manage our own financial affairs due to a disability.  Your plan should specify what is to occur in the event of your disability.  Typically your plan should set forth exactly when you are disabled, who manages your property when you are disabled, and how your property is to be managed when you are disabled.  Frequently, family members are called upon to fulfill these duties and will be actively involved in your estate plan.

The children are likely to play an even greater role in your estate plan after your death.  Children, along with a surviving spouse, play a critical role in the administration process that is necessary after you pass away.  Additionally, children will be receiving property as beneficiaries of your estate plan. 

Therefore, your children should be informed and educated regarding your estate plan to ensure that they understand their duties in the event of your death or disability.  Also, when your children understand your estate plan and the strategies employed therein, there is very little confusion and contention amongst the family after your death.

You worked hard to acquire property during your lifetime.  Your children should be given all of the tools to ensure that your property will pass smoothly to the next generation.  Those tools should include a customized estate plan that addresses your family’s specific goals, as well as an atmosphere of open communication between you and your children to ensure that there are no surprises in the event of your death.

Conversely, children whose parents are living should openly discuss estate planning issues with their parents.  Doing so will encourage parents to talk to an estate planning specialist to make sure that all of their property passes to their children and loved ones as intended.  If children do not discuss estate planning with their parents, unintended results can materialize which cannot be corrected.  The time to address these issues is today.

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