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Parents, grown children need to discuss estate plans

The holidays are upon us and families are busy making plans to get together. That said, there is no better time to talk to your adult children or parents about inheritances, estate planning and other financial matters.

It is not an easy topic to broach, nor one that parents and their children necessarily discuss freely. A study by a respected financial firm said 89 percent of families want to talk about meaningful issues such as elder care and health, but only 10 percent of adult children think their parents have gone into detail with them. Additionally, slightly less than 20 percent of adult children believe their parents have discussed estate planning freely, and just about 10 percent report going into retirement plans with their parents at length.

Those numbers do not surprise experts, who said the issues under discussion represent difficult topics. Discussing a parent's end of life, what would happen should the parent become mentally impaired and money that will pass hands upon death all are tough subjects. Parents do not want to face their mortality or thoughts that they might not have the capacity to meet their daily needs.

However, these discussions lead to eye-opening information. For instance, adult children need to know if they will inherit money so that they can make financial plans. They also need to know about a parent's financial wherewithal to learn if they will need to help out with money down the road.

The survey showed that when the two generations talk money, 90 percent of the parents who have talked with their kids feel a greater comfort.

If parents and their children have a tough time talking to each other, meeting with a financial adviser can help break down the walls. Financial advisers are able to keep the conversation matter of fact and unemotional, leading the discussion in a positive direction.

Even if the discussion does not take place, parents must share with their children where to find key financial documents, such as wills. Death is not an easy topic but one that the two sides must address in at least a limited manner.

Source: MarketWatch, "Here come the holidays-and 'The Talk'," Anne Tergesen, Nov. 14, 2012

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