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Parents should not keep children in the dark on estate plan

A married couple in Tennessee may have a difficult time discussing their end-of-life plans with their children. This is a necessary thing to do, however, in the interest of preventing much greater strife later on. Where there are several children, it is highly advisable for the parents to meet with the children and explain the highlights of their estate plan.

It is common for mistakes and conflicts to boil over after the parents have died. This happens almost always when they tried to keep their intentions secret or shared them with only one favored child. Disputes over inheritances brought in the probate court can end up being very costly and draining the estate of money while wearing down any element of good will between the siblings.

If the contents of a parent's last will and testament are unknown at the time of death, that is a sign of poor planning and the failure to communicate adequately. The idea that older parents should be secretive in such matters is a prescription for trouble. For the children, each one should ask the parents about the existence of a will and other legal instruments. This can be done in a gentle way, but it should be done.

Sometimes the documents may be old and in need of revisions under Tennessee law or for purposes of updating the names of all individuals involved. Where there are particularly bumpy issues that the parents need help in explaining to the children, a family meeting can be held at the estate planning attorney's office with any financial advisers also present. Perhaps surprisingly, it is found that getting everything expressed and discussed among family members early in the process is a good prescription for success.

Source:, "MAKING CENTS: Talk to elderly loved ones about their estate planning", John Napolitano, Aug. 9, 2016

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