Adult kids, parents: getting on the same page re estate planning

Uh, sooner is better than later?

If money management firm Fidelity was soliciting a short response to indicate understanding of the bottom-line takeaway in its most recent report on family communications between adult kids and parents on key estate planning matters, the above response would be a slam-dunk winner.

Rephrased, the answer might read like this: As a family, we all know intuitively that we need to engage in a candid conversation, so let’s just plunge in … now.

Fidelity’s look at family communications regarding estate planning where mom and dad are involved is actually quite upbeat concerning a preliminary point, namely this: Most adult children say that they expect to pitch in and help aging parents, and are quite willing to do so.

But here’s a caveat to that: Many of them don’t quite know what to do, their parents have never discussed things with them, and differences in views regarding expectations arise with some regularity when planning concerns aren’t candidly discussed in a timely fashion.

As for that somewhat shaky word “timely,” Fidelity notes that most parents and kids “feel discussions of financial planning don’t need to happen until the parents have retired and either health or finances become an issue.”

That is not a favored response at Fidelity, where the collective view strongly emphasizes sooner-rather-than-later family communications. Holding off too long, notes one commentator, can give rise to hurried — spelled “bad” — decisions and more than a modicum of family confusion.

Have the talk, engaging the services of a proven estate planning attorney. And do it while mom and dad are fully able to participate in the discussion.

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