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By Liza Horvath


Open the Discussion


When your career is spent in estate planning, estate administration and wealth management, you begin to observe reoccurring patterns in the lives of clients. Most families have similar experiences and share like concerns and fears. Young families are focused on schooling, the accumulation of assets and a seemingly long-way-off retirement. As children complete their educations and begin to have families of their own, in ideal situations parents shift their attention and motivation to emotionally supporting their now grown children and new grandchildren. Parents also begin to consider their own retirement and moving on to the “golden years.”


If this sounds bucolic and unrealistic - perhaps it is for some families. In a family where a young son is autistic, the parents must come to the understanding that he will not be able to complete an education and, most likely, will not have a family of his own. Instead of long-term retirement planning the parents must now plan to support him for the long run and make plans for his care after they die.  


Another family has a drug addicted child and, regardless of the number of rehabilitation efforts, the child continues to relapse. If the parents make plans to leave a part of their estate to this child will it end up fueling the drug addiction?  What about parents that sit helplessly by watching a daughter marry, divorce, marry and divorce again and then observe that she is now seriously dating a man that looks and acts just like her last two husbands? Will an inheritance left to her end up in the hands of her next ex-husband?


Most of us desire comfortable lives and a peaceful retirement but in truth few of us will live a life without challenges. The beauty of being the parent is that we are in control and, due to our life experiences, we can usually see problems our children may face and attempt to help or, at the very least, try to reduce damage. The issues above can be addressed with appropriate estate planning - an estate lawyer can prepare special needs or divorce protection trusts that will ensure that any hard earned wealth is used to best support children.


Conversely, from our positions as parents, have we stopped to consider our child’s perspective? Mom and Dad are aging, they have significant accumulated wealth but yet remain completely silent on their estate planning. Even worse is the parent that is not sharing with children any thoughts or preferences they may have regarding what should happen if they become infirm, frail or incapacitated. The children are respectful – they do not ask – they wait and hope the parents have made plans and that they – the children – will find out what to do and how to do it when the time comes.


Understandably, some parents are uncomfortable sharing the details of wealth, planning or their preferences regarding end-of-life care. However, voluntarily discussing our estate plans and our desires with regard to care in the final days should open the dialogue and hopefully help all concerned gain an understanding and feel more peaceful and empowered in the process.


Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com










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