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Since they were born, you’ve taken care of them, provided for them, and even though they may be grown and gone– and may even have children of their own– the odds are they are an important part of your comprehensive estate plan.

So how much do your adult children need to know– if anything– about your estate plan and/or your financial status?

Every family dynamic is different. Some are close, while some are estranged. Some parents are healthy, while others are declining. All of this factors into the decision on how much if anything adult children should know. To answer the question, you have to understand the purposes of estate planning. A guide to what your children need to know is a helpful tool, as well.
First, an estate plan includes a will and/or trusts (and often Medicaid planning) that can safeguard your assets during your life and in the event of your future disability, protecting them from creditors and nursing home bills. After you’re gone, your estate plan will distribute your assets to your beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes.
Generally, a parent will designate an adult child to serve as their primary or successor executor or trustee. An adult child is also often chosen as their agent or successor agent on a healthcare proxy or power of attorney, giving them the power to make healthcare and/or financial decisions in the event the parent becomes disabled.
At a minimum, parents should consider either providing copies of these important documents to such designated children or informing them where the documents have been safeguarded, so they can be accessed when needed.

Some arguments in favor of providing more specifics on financial status to adult children include, but aren’t limited to:

  • the children’s peace of mind that comes from transparency over the parent’s ability to afford long-term care if needed,
  • knowing the parent’s wishes via a Living Will regarding end-of-life decisions (such as do not resuscitate orders, feeding tubes, etc.), and
  • knowing someone has been chosen as agent for financial and medical decision-making in case it becomes necessary.

Some argue that grown children expecting a future windfall inheritance may stress less over their own retirement planning and could focus on their shorter-term financial obligations– like buying a home or paying for college. Likewise, if grandparents are providing for their grandchildren’s education, the parents can shift their focus– and funds– from college fund planning to retirement planning.

Those against full disclosure of anticipated bequests or parent’s financial status argue that the intended recipients may become lazy knowing that big money is coming in the future.

A skilled estate planning attorney can help you work through what’s best in your particular situation.

If you need assistance with an initial estate plan, or would like to modify an existing one, the wills, trusts and estate planning attorneys 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 trust and estate planning law.