Americans just do not like to discuss estate planning. Supposedly 7 out of 10 of us have no plan. Of the 3 who do, what are the chances that the plan is up to date?
A friend of mine, Michael Stuart, just sent me this article in the NY Times, Estate Planning as Family Conversation, talking about talking. I wanted to share it with you as it paints the picture of what happens with no plan, and even how to open a conversation about one.
When I think about the plans that I have helped clients create, many stories come to mind. One recurring theme is a senior couple who own some investments and real property, with one of their adult children serving full-time as a caretaker. Other kids are not too involved in things... and the caretaker daughter pretty much has her hands full with children of her own and helping out the folks. In this situation, the adult daughter has a full time job or two already... and no outside means of support.
Many parents want to treat children "equally." But what do you do when there is only so much to go around, and the cost to one kid (the helper) is simply going to be too high for that to even remotely be fair? Parents must first plan for their care, then consider being "fair" rather than "equal" to those who follow.
It's often the right thing to do... but without some conversation, and openness, it will likely have a huge cost in terms of relationships down the line. And ignoring this dynamic is unlikely to provide a better result. So start talking, it is a big first step to helping you with your estate planning today and well into the future.