If you are reading this, you made it to the 2020 holiday season!
While this year may not feature the big family get-togethers of years past, you will still likely be visiting with loved ones in some fashion, whether virtually or in smaller groups. Despite what you may think, the holidays are a good time to bring up estate planning. Given the ongoing pandemic, talking about these issues is particularly urgent this time around.
That said, asking your dad about his end-of-life wishes while he is watching football or over-filling his plate from the charcuterie table is not the best time to broach the subject.
In order to make things as casual, but productive, as possible, consider the following four tips to talk to your family about estate planning over the holidays.
Set aside a time and place to talk
Discussing estate and retirement planning while opening Christmas gifts most likely will not be very productive. Your best bet is to schedule a time when you can all gather to talk without distractions or interruptions.
Be upfront with your family about the meeting’s purpose, so no one is taken by surprise and people come prepared for the talk. Choose a setting that’s comfortable, quiet, and private. The more relaxed everyone is, the more likely they will be comfortable opening up.
Create an agenda, and set a start and stop time
Create a list of the most important points you want to cover, and do your best to stick to them. You should encourage open conversation, but having a list of items you want to cover can help ensure you don’t forget anything.
Also, set a start and stop time for the conversation. This will help keep the discussion on track and prevent people from veering too far off topic. If anything important comes up that is not on the list, you can always continue the discussion later. Remember, the goal is to simply get the conversation started, not work out all of the details or dollar amounts.
Explain why planning ahead is important
Assure everyone that the conversation is not about prying into anyone’s finances, health, or relationships—it is about providing for the family’s future security and wellbeing no matter what happens. It is also about ensuring everyone’s wishes are clearly understood and honored, not about finding out how much money someone stands to inherit.
Talking about these issues is also a good way to avoid future conflict and expense. When family members do not clearly understand the reasoning behind one another’s planning choices, it is likely to breed conflict, resentment, and even costly legal battles.
Discuss your planning experience
If you have already created your plan, start the talk by explaining the planning documents you have in place and why you chose them. If you have worked with me on your own estate planning, describe how the process unfolded and how I supported you to create a plan designed for your unique wishes and needs.
Mention any questions or concerns you initially had about planning and how we worked with you to address them. If you have loved ones who have yet to do any planning and have doubts about its usefulness, discuss their concerns in a sympathetic and supportive manner, sharing how you dealt with similar issues whenever possible.
If you have not yet worked with me on your estate plan, encourage your family members who are interested to schedule a no-cost initial consultation where they and I will casually discuss their specific estate planning needs and goals.
For the love of your family
As your Personal Family Lawyer®, I can guide and support you in having intimate discussions with your loved ones. When done right, proper planning can put your life and relationships into a much clearer focus and offer peace of mind knowing that the people you love most will be protected and provided for no matter what. Contact me today to learn more about how to talk to your family about estate planning over the holidays.