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An Education on Estate Planning

We all remember penmanship lessons. “Cursive” was a fitting word to describe those maddening swirls and lines that we drew on our lined paper. To me, the “z” looked like stairs leading to a haunted house.

My penmanship efforts probably scared my third-grade teacher half to death.

I was thinking about school curriculum following another client meeting in which family members had expressed their lack of knowledge of the long-term health care system.

What are we doing?

I am aware that penmanship is no longer a grade school priority, but important life subjects remain unexamined by educators charged with our developmental education.

Think about all of the subjects that have to be learned on the fly – financial literacy, taxation, insurance, health care, estate planning, career development and personal relationship management (dating, marriage, family communication). We spend a lot of time and money on college. College is four years (sometimes five; could be 6).

Every single item listed above is a lifetime issue.

So how do we combat these knowledge gaps?

Talk to your children. I am not saying it is cool to lecture your toddler on Medicare Part D, but maintaining an ongoing conversation on real life issues is extremely helpful.

Explain your goals for estate planning. My parents talked about everything. They dragged me to banks, accountants and retirement seminars. Hey, I was in the back seat of the car, kept quiet and did not demand food every 3 seconds – unlike some people who shall remain nameless. Even if my enthusiasm for adult activities was limited, I could not help noticing these issues were important to Mom and Dad.

If our job, as parents, is to prepare our children to tackle the real world, then they need to know how the real world works. They need to know the difference between a health insurance deductible and a co-pay. They need to know what a Will does and what a Trust does. They need to know that saving money should begin as soon as possible and not to wait until your earnings have increased.

They need to know how relationships can impact their lives positively and negatively. They need to know what a job in their chosen career actually feels like.  

Watch your children watch you when you deal with your aging parents. This is not a lesson plan on the signing of the Magna Carta or quadratic equations. This is real life: Grandma, with our assistance, set up an estate plan many years ago and placed her home in a Trust. She is getting good care in her home. That care is covered by a government program called Medicaid. Grandma’s assets were protected and can be used to make her life better. The money saved can then be used to enhance the lives of her loved ones.

These simple connections will embed themselves in your child’s brain and emerge when needed.

My handwriting may stink, but estate planning is not a total mystery.

Alan D. Feller, Esq., is managing partner of The Feller Group, located at 625 Route 6, Mahopac. He can be reached at


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