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5 questions to ask when doing estate planning

Estate planning may start off by dividing assets among heirs, but that's not all that it does. Your estate plan also may reference your end-of-life wishes. As you grow older and the threat of dementia increases, you want to have these desires down on paper in advance.

Failing to do so can often cause disputes. One child wants to put you in a nursing home and sell your house. The other child thinks you should stay in the family home. A third child thinks you can still make the decision on your own, while the other two do not. No matter what happens, someone is going to be angry, and it could even end up in court.

So, having that plan in place before it gets to this point makes things a lot easier for everyone involved. To help, here are five different questions that you should ask:

  1. What can the family actually afford? For instance, is it unrealistic to look for a nursing home with a private room because the cost is just too high? Financial constraints may dictate what you can do. As you work through the rest of your estate planning, it's the perfect time to consider what assets you have and how you can use them.
  2. What placement options exist? Some examples include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, living at home with in-home care and moving in with one of your adult children. It's important to consider them all carefully, weighing the pros and cons.
  3. What placement options do you prefer? If all things are equal, would you choose one of the aforementioned options -- or something else entirely -- over the others? All things may not be equal. You may want to stay at home when it's just not safe. But you can start this discussion by talking about what you would want if possible.
  4. What options does the rest of the family want to use? For you, the preference to stay at home or with an adult child may appear clear, but that doesn't mean they think the same way. Are they worried about you getting hurt while living alone? Do they actually have the room, time and energy to have you move in with them?
  5. How can the plan address everyone's needs? Once you know where everyone stands, you can get creative and work together to devise a plan that actually works for your family. By getting that down in writing, you avoid a future dispute.

Do you want to know how to get this process started? The sooner you do it, the better. Make sure you understand exactly what steps you and your heirs need to take.

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