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Never assume that your kids will go along with your estate plan

Many parents see their children through rose-colored glasses. They only see the best in them. When it comes to how the children relate to each other, they assume that they'll always get along.

This could simply be because the parents only see them when they're all together. Sure, the children get along when they all show up at their parents' house for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but that does not accurately reflect how they'll get along when Mom and Dad have passed away.

That's when a lot of conflicts crop up. Children have different financial situations and different sources of stress in their lives. They may have old rivalries that they never quite got over.

Parents need to do estate planning that very specifically lays out what they want and what the children should do. Rather than saying that the kids should decide what to do with the house, for instance, the estate plan should instruct them on what steps to take. It may even be better for the parents to sell the house and divide the proceeds as they prefer.

For parents, it feels easy to just give rough directions and tell the kids to do what is fair. Unfortunately, they may not agree on what is fair, and the settlement of the estate can drag on in court. Assuming they'll be civil and kind is an easy mistake for parents to make, but it's also a critical one.

As you do your estate planning, keep this in mind. Make sure that you understand all of the legal steps you need to take to make your goals and wishes as clear as possible.

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