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Children may not need to be involved in parents' estate planning

Having supportive family members around can mean a great deal to aging residents in the District of Columbia. Well-meaning adult children often accompany aging parents to appointments such as those for estate planning. Sometimes, this can be more of a detriment to the person wanting to create an estate plan than a help.

When an aging parent passes away, it could be said that the adult child who accompanied the parent to an estate planning meeting exerted some influence over his or her parent. Even if it is not true, his or her presence could provide a foothold for a disgruntled heir or beneficiary. A challenge to the will could be raised, claiming that he or she placed undue emotional stress on the parent as he or she was unfairly influencing decisions about the distribution of assets.

Further, most estate planning documents are witnessed by people who are not related to the individual and are not beneficiaries under a will or trust. Their purpose is to attest to their belief that the individual signing the document is doing so of his or her own free will and exhibits the capacity to understand what he or she is signing. The attendance of an adult child during the estate planning process could call into question whether the child is asserting undue influence on the parent, potentially causing witnesses to wonder if the individual is truly signing the documents of his or her own accord.

It may be a good idea to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Even if a child provides a District of Columbia parent transportation to his or her estate planning attorney’s office, they do not necessarily have to sit in on any meetings or participate in the execution of the documents. This could avoid time-consuming and costly litigation in the future.

Source: Time, "When Children Should Butt Out of Their Parents' Finances", Pamela Sandy, July 10, 2014

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