Starting a Conversation about Estate Planning
Whether you are a parent or an adult child interested in beginning a conversation about getting affairs in order, the prospect of discussing your loved one’s death can be intimidating. However, once the participants get over the initial discomfort, having an open discussion about estate planning matters can prove highly beneficial. Here are some tips to open the lines of communication.
Having a Conversation
It is important to have honest yet sensitive communication among close family regarding estate planning. Doing so will help make sure that expectations and feelings about certain responsibilities or obligations designated by the documents are shared with one another.
For example, perhaps the one intended to serve as trustee to an estate is not comfortable doing so. Knowing this in advance, the testator can make the necessary provisions. It also gives beneficiaries the opportunity to understand the testator’s intentions with their estate. Clear communication in advance will help to ensure proper distribution of assets as well as clear up any confusion or conflict in the future. Communication can also aid in the decision making process regarding specific issues that truly reflect the testator’s wishes.
Specific consideration based on the roles within the family include:
- Adult children should ensure their parents have executed necessary estate planning documents and will be provided for if one of them passes away or becomes incapacitated.
- Parents should ensure their children understand their plans and final wishes and appoint guardians for any minor children. Such guardians should be consulted with ahead of time and should understand the parents’ intentions for their children.
- Grandparents and other relatives should make sure their descendants are provided for in their estate planning documents and may wish to coordinate with their children or other parents of named beneficiaries as well.
Starting the ConversationNow that it is clear that having a family conversation regarding estate planning is in everyone’s best interest, the question becomes how to initiate the discussion. While those involved should open lines of communication in whatever way feels appropriate to them, some suggestions on doing so include:
- Choosing a comfortable, supportive environment when all participants are calm. Avoid beginning this conversation when the family is in crisis or conflict, as emotions may inhibit open conversation.
- Showing sincerity regarding the motivations for having the discussion. Be up front in organizing the conversation in order to ensure that family members have appropriate plans in place and their wishes are understood by everyone involved.
- Emphasizing the necessity of having the discussion and the benefits that doing so will have on those involved, perhaps by giving an example of a mishandled estate that could have been avoided had the family discussed their plans with one another.