How to Have the Difficult Estate Planning Conversations with Your Family
No matter what your age or stage is in life, it is important to have an estate plan that is written down and properly executed.
While many people are reluctant to discuss their estate plan with their family and loved ones, having that conversation is actually a selfless gift you can give them that shows how much you care.
Starting a conversation about estate planning may feel difficult. But it is one of the most important and beneficial conversations you can have. By communicating with your loved ones, you know that your wishes will be heard, and you will feel empowered in the knowledge that you get to determine your legacy. Having this conversation will ultimately provide peace of mind for you and the people you care most about, as your family will know your wishes, their responsibilities, and how best to honor your legacy.
Here, I offer some suggestions on the benefits of estate planning, tips on how to initiate a conversation about estate planning with your loved ones, and ideas about general topics to cover.
Benefits of Estate Planning
Everyone has an estate, and everyone should have a plan for what will happen to their estate in their final days and when their life ends. A well-thought-out estate plan allows you and your family to confidently answer the question: “What do you want your legacy to be?” Once you have gone through the process of planning for the distribution of your estate, you and your family will gain peace of mind, secure in the knowledge that you will know how and by whom your affairs will be managed.
Peace of Mind
One of the most significant benefits of a properly prepared estate plan is knowing that your wishes will be carried out, and that you will have control over your final days and how your assets will be distributed when you are gone. An estate plan allows you to specify who will be in charge of managing your estate and how your property will be distributed. Your estate plan also gives you control over the medical care and treatment you will or will not receive as your life draws to an end.
By discussing your estate plan before it’s too late, you can actually help avoid family conflict. When you discuss your estate plan with your family and others who may inherit your assets, you lessen the potential for conflict about how your affairs will be handled. You also remove the emotional burden on your family of having to make these difficult decisions without knowing what you really wanted.
An estate planning attorney can help anticipate situations you may not have considered and create an estate plan that will honor your wishes, avoid conflict, and pass on wealth to future generations.
Preserve Your Legacy
By planning for how you intend to pass on your assets, you can create a legacy for generations to come by preserving and passing on generational wealth and heirlooms. And if future generations continue to be good stewards of the assets you have accumulated, you will have a lasting impact on your future descendants.
Discussing Your Estate Plan
Discussing what will happen after you die can feel uncomfortable. When you have these conversations with people you care about, be open and honest, and sensitive to their feelings. Having these conversations can be difficult but, once your family becomes accustomed to them, you will find that discussing your estate brings peace of mind and can bring your family closer and avoid future conflict.
Starting the Conversation
Bringing up the subject of an estate plan can be difficult. But it’s important to have this conversation early and often. The sooner you begin, the easier it will be. Your family will become accustomed to having a meaningful conversation about your wishes for your family, and you can have periodic check-ins to re-evaluate your family’s circumstances and your estate plan.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
Transparency is key. Be open, forthright, and honest with your estate executors, beneficiaries, agents, and family members. By talking openly about your financial affairs, your wishes, and your objectives you can help ensure that they will be met. And if you are unsure about how you want to handle aspects of your estate plan, you can be upfront about that, too.
Keep Written Notes and Instructions
When someone passes away, it is important that the people left behind have the tools necessary to access your will and know who to contact to ensure that your wishes are carried out. While these instructions cannot take the place of your will, they will help your agent and executor by easing the process during an already difficult time.
Consider, for example:
- Where is the original signed copy of your signed will?
- Who is your power of attorney, and where is this document?
- What is your social security number and date of birth?
- Where is your birth certificate?
- Are there safekeeping places for jewelry and other valuables?
- Who has access to information about bank and retirement accounts?
- Do you have life insurance or other benefits?
- Where is your marriage certificate and other pertinent information?
Recognize that having these conversations may be difficult for you and your family members. Approach the topic with understanding, and be empathetic to the people you love.
Before starting the conversation, plan ahead and communicate when the conversation will take place. This will give everyone time to prepare, compose their thoughts, and ask thoughtful questions.
During the conversation, communicate honestly and encourage everyone to participate and share their thoughts on the matter. Listen carefully and try to approach areas of disagreement with understanding.
The Campbell Law Firm Can Help with Your Estate Planning Needs
Having a conversation about your estate plan can be difficult. But this is one of the most important conversations you can have. Discussing your estate plan can help bring your family closer, provide peace of mind for all involved, and will avoid conflict and help you preserve your legacy for generations to come.
If you have questions about your estate plan or would like suggestions on how to get started having this important conversation with your family, the Campbell Law Firm can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and begin preparing your estate plan.