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Do Your Children Know About Your Estate Plan?

Remember the days sitting around the kitchen table for a family meeting.  Matters of concern were discussed. Regardless of the outcome, family communicated with each other.

Have you had the kitchen table meeting regarding your estate plan?  Do your children know where your key legal documents are? Do they know who the agent is under your Durable Power of Attorney?  Do they know who your attorney is?  Have they met them?

It is my belief that the Best Estate Plan is one that is communicated to your family. It should not be left to the children to sort out who should make financial decisions or health care decisions if you need help in the future.  It should not be left for the children to figure out why you did something a certain way which may lead to family disputes.

This is easier said than done.  But when it is done, we have seen our clients benefit in a number of ways.  Parents have an opportunity to share their value system with their children communicating to them what is truly important in their lives.  They have an opportunity to ask you about your plan and to reconcile differences or misunderstandings that may exist. 

The following are three suggestions on how to make the most of your estate plan.  

Keep Your Documents Safe

As part of your estate plan, it is important that you keep your documents in a safe place.  It is typical for our law firm to hold our client’s original Will for safekeeping with a copy being given to our client, noting that we have the original document.  As to Advance Directives, our clients typically sign two original documents, keeping both of them, along with at least one copy for the agent. 

Communicate with your Fiduciaries

You should communicate your plan with your family, especially the agent you have appointed in your Advance Directives (Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy).    

Today more than ever, the agent under a Health Care Proxy will be meeting with the hospitals and doctors to make medical decisions for a loved one.  One conversation with your agent can make all the difference.  Your nominated executor under your Will should also know that he or she has been named in a position of responsibility.  They should know where your original Will is being kept. 

Have a Family Meeting

Now, you have your legal documents in a safe place and you have notified your fiduciaries about their responsibilities.  The last step is to have the family meeting.  This is an opportunity for you and your children to understand your desires when it comes to protecting your assets and preserving your dignity during your

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lifetime and the disposition of your estate upon your demise.

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