Involving Adult Children in the Estate Planning Process
Estate planning can be a complicated process, and there is not a singular path that is right for everyone. Here are some patterns that we have noticed, and some potential pitfalls relative to involving adult children in the estate planning process.
Many people feel that involving their adult children in the estate planning process is a good idea. And, it certainly can be a good idea, in certain situations. But many times we run into a particular set of problems when adult children are involved in estate planning meetings.
Who is the client? Are we protecting their best interests?
An estate planning attorney has a duty to protect the interests of the client. The client, of course, is the one for whom the attorney is drafting a will, trust, and making arrangements for their estate. However, when adult children join the conversation, it can be difficult for attorneys to separate the wishes of the client-parent from those of the non-client child.
For example, it may be necessary to discuss various options with regard to a long-term care plan. Sometimes these options involve gifting certain assets or property to children or other heirs, versus taking another advantage of an entirely different option. It is important for the client to understand all of the choices available to them, and the attorney’s hope is to help guide the client toward the path that is best for their situation. Unfortunately when an adult child is present for estate planning meetings and decisions, their wishes often become evident and dominate the conversation. Naturally children would want to receive the gift of assets. This sometimes creates a situation where the client-parent may not feel comfortable expressing their true wishes and electing the alternative option.
Is the client competent?
Another potential issue is that of client competency. Due to the nature of estate planning, the process is often undertaken at an advanced state of age. An estate planning attorney must feel confident that their client is competent to make important legal decisions. This issue can become clouded when adult children are present. Often they intend to help their parent, but too much “help” can obscure the fact that a client is not fully competent.
In most cases it is in your best interest to complete the estate planning process privately, with just your spouse (if you have one) and your estate planning attorney present.
If you have questions about this dilemma, we would be happy to discuss them with you. Call us to schedule an appointment, and we can help you decide if your adult children should attend estate planning meetings with you.