Planner Jane Ricardi knows just how devastating it can be when people don't clearly express their final wishes to their family. Take the case of an octogenarian who did not communicate how she wanted her retirement accounts and other assets to be distributed among her four children, says Ricardi, founder of North Light Financial Services in Kingston, Mass.

The only daughter, who had been divorced twice, moved in with her mother. Saying she needed access to pay bills, the daughter persuaded her mother to add her name to the mother's bank account and to make the daughter the retirement accounts beneficiary, according to Ricardi.

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