NEW YORK (The Street) -- Some 56% of American parents have a will or living trust document, according to a new Caring.com survey, but 52% of adult children don’t know where their parents store their estate planning documents. That can jeopardize the appropriate allocation of assets to heirs.
"Being uninformed about documents or worse, not having them at all, can wreak havoc on a family’s emotional and financial well-being," said Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com.
"Accidents happen and illnesses befall us with little or no forewarning," said Martha Laham, author of The Con Game: A Failure of Trust (Lulu Publishing, 2014). "An aging parent should furnish formal instructions to loved ones to make surrogate decisions. If not, family members could be left in a quandary, which could lead to arguments or uncertainty over how best to handle a particular situation."
Documentation is important, but even having plans in writing may not be enough.
"There is no guarantee that having estate planning documents in place will protect you or your heirs," said Kristi Hood, author of the book Probate Pirates (JKH Publishing 2015). "If there is family disagreement, all documentation can and will be taken into court and debated. Sometimes the winner is not who the elder trusted and chose but an attorney who is one of the judge's cronies."
Buffalo, N.Y. native Cindy Swanick, 50, says probate attorney Lorenzo Ramunno confiscated a portion of inheritance money that was on deposit at Sun Trust Bank in Ocala, Fla., where her aging mother Gwendolyn Harvey-Hamp resided before she died.