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Talking about your estate planning needs with family members

One of the posts we wrote last week discussed the importance of women learning about estate planning. Most women in New Jersey understand the importance of estate planning. You understand that wills and other estate planning documents are essential in making sure your estate is divided the way you want after you die.

However, a simple understanding of estate planning is not enough. It is important for you to meet with an attorney and discuss your options. You should also talk with your loved ones about your estate planning goals. A recent article in Forbes discussed a few ways to approach those conversations.

If you are interested in discussing your estate planning goals with your spouse or partner, it may be helpful to open the conversation with a story. A movie, book or newspaper article about someone your age who died recently can help you introduce the situation. If you're uncertain how to start the conversation, these approaches may help:

  • Discuss your own mortality and fears about leaving the family behind
  • Focus on the children and creating a plan so they are protected
  • Address it as a matter of mutual concern, reiterating that you would like a plan so you're both taken care of if anything happens to the other

If you have adult children, talking with them about your estate plans can help make sure you understand what your kids want most. For example, if you planned to leave one child a larger portion of your estate because he or she has more children than the others, communicate that. Perhaps he or she would prefer to receive an equal portion of the estate to avoid sibling rivalry after your death.

If your parents do not have estate planning documents, you may wonder how you can help them. If your parents' mental capacity is diminishing, they may not be able to sign legal documents. Talking to seniors about their mortality can be emotionally challenging, but many lawyers can help facilitate those conversations.

Source: Forbes, "Nice Girls Talk About Estate Planning," Deborah L. Jacobs, Aug. 9, 2011

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