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Sharing your estate plans with loved ones

Do you make a to-do list each day, or do you take each task as it comes? When you go to the store, do you have a list, or do you grab what you see and hope you don't forget anything? Did you plan ahead for things like your wedding, the purchase of your home, your vacation and your retirement? Or did you fly by the seat of your pants and pray you didn't run out of money?

Planning is an important part of success, and if you learned this lesson early in life, you probably had many positive experiences fruitfully completing things you started. You may even have your estate planning completed and are satisfied with your decisions. However, you may be forgetting one important element of your estate plan.

Let's talk about it

While your estate plan may seem to be all about you, your assets and your wishes, it is really about your loved ones. An estate plan is often a generous gift to those left behind, sparing them from making very difficult choices about your health care, your final arrangements and the distribution of your property.

Such information may not always be a happy surprise. This is why modern money management advisors recommend New Jersey families have regular discussions about their estate plans, beginning as early as possible, including topics such as:

  • How are you going to divide your estate?
  • How do your finances look for the future?
  • Do you have funds to carry you through retirement, including long-term care?
  • What are your wishes for the end of your life?

Gone are the days of dropping a bombshell inheritance on a loved one. More often, such actions result in probate litigation when others who expected a share of your estate are left out. More importantly, you certainly don't want your family disputing over your critical care if you should become too ill to speak for yourself. These decisions, once you make them, are important enough to pass along.

The potential for positive results

How you approach these topics obviously depends on your family dynamic and whether you have been in the habit of having open discussions about difficult subjects in the past. You may find it easier to speak one on one with your children, or you might prefer to gather your loved ones for family meetings. Yes, more than one meeting will probably be necessary since there is a lot to cover, and many questions may arise.

The main purpose is to ensure your loved ones fully understand your wishes and the reasons for your decisions. Talking about these matters now may allow your children to come to terms with them while you are alive so they can ask you for clarification and offer you their advice. You may also find such conversations draw your family closer together, or at least, mitigate the potential for probate disputes.

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