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Talk about the Estate Planning Facts of Life

Every parent who has had “that talk” with a child knows how awkward the situation can be.  There’s another “talk” parents and children should have that may be equally as difficult.  We’re referring to the discussion about the parents’ estates.

Adult children often hesitate to inquire about the parents’ wills or life insurance coverage for fear of appearing greedy or nosy.  Parents sometimes fear they will lose control of their assets by divulging too much.  But failing to have this talk may be an injustice to both the parent and child.

In many cases, the child will be handling, or at least assisting with, the arrangements following the death of a parent.  Knowing where the parent has bank accounts or where the will is kept can make the job much easier.  Knowing what resources are available is also helpful if the child must assume responsibility for the parent’s finances.

What else should parents and children discuss?

  • Are there personal items — jewelry, china, a handmade quilt — that the parents want to pass down to a particular loved one?

  • What funeral arrangements would the parents like?  Have they already purchased cemetery plots?  Are there any special requests for the services?

  • Where are insurance policies, deeds and other important papers kept?  Do the parents have living trusts and, if so, where are they located?

  • Would parents want contributions to favorite charities in lieu of flowers?  How should these gifts be earmarked?


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