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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

Q: Should you talk about your estate plan at the holiday dinner table?

New York and New Jersey estate planning attorneys often encourage their clients to tell their adult children about their estate plans. You might even consider working estate planning talk into the holiday dinner conversation if the mood is right and the important people are present.

In today’s political climate, the discussion would likely be less controversial than discussing politics. However, it wouldn’t be appropriate to tell one child you cut them out of the will as you pass the mashed potatoes. Nor would it be wise to air your family business in front of extended family or friends.

But very often during the holiday season families gather from near and far spending many hours or even days together and a good time to share your estate planning details may present itself.

What should you tell adult children about your estate plan?

To begin with, adult children would do well to know that you’ve actually gotten your estate plan in order. You might provide them with a copy of the will or advise them who your estate planning attorney is and where the original will is located. If you haven’t already done so it’s a good time to give the agents you appointed in your durable power of attorney or health care proxy copies of those documents as well. Don’t forget to let successors know they may be called upon in the event the primary appointed agent is unwilling or unable to serve.

To the extent you are comfortable, you could provide a picture of your financial situation including where your bank accounts are located, where the deeds are to any real estate, where stock and investment accounts are held, title to any vehicles, etc. They should know if you’ve created a trust and either be given a copy or told where to get that information. They also need information on life insurance and retirement benefits and who the designated beneficiaries are for those accounts.

You might also want to share information about liabilities such as bank, car, and personal loans, mortgages, credit card statements, open medical bills, and the like. Sometimes special personal property—like jewelry–is distributed at this time of year either to avoid fights later or to allow the giver to watch the recipient use and enjoy the item while they’re still alive. So, bringing up the estate plan can lead to more special memories during the holiday.

Contact Merlino & Gonzalez to Schedule a Consultation

If you need assistance with an initial estate plan or would like to modify an existing one, the estate planning experts at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in Staten Island, New York and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all aspects of estate planning and estate administration.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.