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Telling your kids that they’re not inheriting your estate

It wasn’t that long ago that most households in Brevard County started their days by reading the newspaper that arrived on their doorsteps each morning. Of course, the internet has changed all of that. Though you might not get USA Today or your other favorite paper as you once did, the publications still provide much-needed information.

We recently came across a column in USA Today about how parents can navigate a potentially thorny estate planning decision to leave their wealth to community organizations rather than to their children.

Columnist Peter Dunn (aka Peter the Planner) writes that “you can do whatever you want with your money and not feel bad about it.” He immediately acknowledges that these sorts of decisions can “go off the rails” without thoughtful preparation and a willingness to be open about your plans and motivations.

He also makes it clear that it is important for people planning their estates to sit down with a licensed attorney who can help them utilize planning tools to maximum effect.

Dunn adds that the “ugliest” estate planning problems that he has seen include “poor communication” and “outdated wishes.”

For instance, if the couple in question has significant wealth and their presumed heirs know that and have certain expectations about inheriting a portion of the assets – but the couple has never communicated their estate plans – it isn’t unreasonable for presumed heirs to assume that the silence validated their inheritance notions.

Dunn also points out that what made sense in an estate plan created 20 years ago might not make sense today. People need to make sure that today’s wishes for their assets are reflected in the estate plans they have today, otherwise “chaos will ensue.”

He stresses that if you want to leave your wealth to organizations or people other than your family, you have every right to do that, but that you should communicate that to your family now.

“You don’t owe them money,” he writes, “but you certainly owe them honesty.”

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