As we head into the peak of the holiday season, you’re likely spending more time than usual surrounded by your family and friends. It’s one of the rare times of the year when loved ones from across the country gather together to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate the passing of another year.
The holidays offer an opportunity to visit with loved ones you rarely see and get caught up on what’s been happening in everyone’s life. And though it might not seem like it, the holidays can also be a good time to discuss estate planning. In fact, with everyone you love—from the youngest to the oldest—gathered together under one roof, the holidays provide the ideal opportunity to talk about planning.
That said, asking your uncle about his end-of-life wishes while he’s watching the football game probably isn’t the best way to get the conversation started. In order to make the discussion as productive as possible, you should consider the following tips.
1. Set aside a time and place to talk
Trying to discuss estate planning in an impromptu fashion over the dinner table or while opening Christmas gifts will most likely not be very productive. Your best bet is to schedule a time separate from the festivities, when you can all gather together and talk without distractions or interruptions.
It’s also a good idea to be upfront with your family about the meeting’s purpose, so no one is taken by surprise, and they are more prepared for the talk. Choose a setting that’s comfortable, quiet, and private. The more relaxed people are, the more likely they’ll be comfortable opening up about sensitive topics.
2. Create an agenda, and set a start and stop time
To ensure you can cover every topic you want to address, 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 basic agenda of the items you want to talk about can help ensure you don’t forget anything in the midst of emotional moments.
Along those same lines, set a start and stop time for the conversation. This will help you keep the discussion on track and avoid having the conversation veer too far away from the main topics you want to discuss. If anything significant comes up that you hadn’t planned on, you can always continue the discussion later.
Keep in mind that the goal is to simply get the planning conversation started, not work out all of the specific details or dollar amounts.
3. Explain why planning is important
From the start, assure everyone that the conversation isn’t about prying into anyone’s finances, health, or personal relationships. Instead, it’s about providing for the family’s future security and wellbeing no matter what happens. It’s about ensuring that everyone’s wishes are clearly understood and honored, not about finding out how much money someone stands to inherit.
While some relatives might be reluctant to open up, being surrounded by the loved ones who will ultimately benefit from planning can make people more willing to discuss these sensitive subjects.
Talking about these issues is also a crucial way to avoid unnecessary conflict and expense down the road. When family members don’t clearly understand the rationale behind one another’s planning choices, it’s likely to breed conflict, resentment, and even costly legal battles.
4. Discuss your experience with planning
If you’ve already set up your plan, one way to get the discussion going is to explain the planning vehicles you have in place and why you chose them. If you’ve worked with a Personal Family Lawyer®, you can describe how the process unfolded and how we supported you to create a plan designed for your unique needs.
Mention any specific questions or concerns you initially had about planning and how we worked with you to address them. If you have loved ones who’ve yet to do any planning and have doubts about its usefulness, discuss any concerns they have in a sympathetic and supportive manner, sharing how you dealt with similar issues whenever possible.
For the love of your family
Though death and incapacity can be awkward subjects to discuss, talking about how to properly plan for such events can actually bring your family closer together this holiday season. In fact, our clients consistently share that after going through our estate planning process they feel more connected to the people they love the most. And they also feel more clear about the lives they want to live during the short time we have here on earth.
As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help guide and support you in having these intimate discussions with your loved ones. When done right, 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 us today to learn more.