Mullen and Iannarone, P.C.
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families of Suffolk County since 1972

The importance of communication in estate planning

New York residents might worry about how to best ensure that their wishes as expressed in their estate plan are carried out. One of the best ways to do this might simply be through communication with their heirs.

According to research, fewer than 33 percent of people talk to their children about their estate plan. However, the benefits of doing so can be huge. In families where there are no fights over the estate, 63 percent say that they had at least a sense of what was in the plan. Of those families, 80 percent said they felt the outcome was fair. In all, more than 20 percent of heirs fight about inheritances.

One advantage of communication is that it can explain the reasons for a decision that may seem inexplicable. For example, people might be planning to leave a larger part of their estate to one child over another. Talking about this may prevent resentment. Furthermore, there is an opportunity for testators to discuss any potential issues while they are still alive to do something to correct them. Inserting a "no-contest" clause in a will is another possibility. This requires people who challenge a will to give up their inheritance although it will not deter someone who has already been disinherited.

Working with an attorney on an estate plan may also help to avoid other pitfalls. For example, there may be estate planning vehicles that people are unaware of that they could use to accomplish certain goals such as a special needs trust to care for a disabled family member. Counsel might also suggest a power of attorney to appoint someone to handle financial matters in case they become incapacitated.

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