For best results, start estate planning early

(NEWS CENTER) -- To minimize disputes among children, it is best to begin estate planning early. Sarah Halpin Certified Financial Planner with the Danforth Group of Wells Fargo Advisors said every family has its own set of complicated estate issues to grapple with, but there are a few common issues.

Unequal Inheritance Parents often face questions when trying to distribute money: "Should I leave more money to my daughter, the teacher, than to my son, the tycoon? If I leave more to the child with the greater need and less to my "successful" child, am I rewarding failure and punishing success? Do my children equate money with love and assume the greater the inheritance to one the greater the love?" Halpin said it is best to discuss unequal inheritance with each child for an opportunity to gauge their reactions. If their reaction is negative, consider a different plan - like treating each child equally or making small gifts while alive to the child who needs more.

Unpaid Family Loans For parents who have given their children large loans, determining repayment is necessary in estate planning, said Halpin. However, sometimes the loan has morphed into a "gift" by the child because he/she can't or won't pay it back. The parents might be willing to forget about repayment, but other children might not be as forgiving. Halpin said if the parents are financially secure and it's not possible to collect the loan, one option is announcing that the debt is cancelled and then giving the other children a similar amount. For parents not in the financial position to do this, Halpin said it is a good idea to consider an unequal distribution in estate plan to reflect the indebtedness.

Taking Care of Siblingswith Disabilities Many families trust their healthy children and think that they will be more empathetic to the child with a disability than a third party. The financial responsibility can be large, and parents often want to give money to the children to help them take care of the child with a disability, said Halpin. The children might say they'll do it without realizing the complexity and responsibility. Halpin said it's important to bring an estate attorney into this conversation. An attorney may be able to suggest alternative ways to care for a child with disabilities that wouldn't put pressure on siblings or jeopardize the inheritance.

Halpin said there's no cookie cutter approach to estate planning and has many emotional landmines. Halpin said it is important to work with an advisory team so that the plan is attentive all the elements involved in transferring assets.


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