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 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 an excellent time to discuss estate planning. In fact, with everyone you love — from the youngest to the oldest — gathered 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. 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.
So no one is taken by surprise, and everyone is more prepared for the talk, it is a good idea to be upfront with your family about the purpose of the meeting. 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
Create a list of the essential points you want to cover and do your best to stick to them to ensure you cover every topic you want to address. Encourage open conversation, but having an underlying agenda of the items you want to talk about can help ensure you don’t forget anything amid emotional moments.
Along those same lines, set a start and stop time for the conversation. An agenda 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 simply to 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.
Some relatives might be reluctant to open up. But being surrounded by 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 understand the rationale behind 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 us, you can describe how the process unfolded and how we supported you in creating 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 because of doubts about its usefulness, discuss their concerns with empathy. Share how you dealt with similar issues whenever possible.
For the love of your family
Death and incapacity can be awkward subjects to discuss. Talking about how to plan for such events properly actually can bring your family closer together this holiday season. In fact, many clients share that after going through our estate planning process, they feel more connected to the people they love the most.
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. Proper planning offers peace of mind in knowing that the people you love most will be protected and provided for no matter what. Contact us today to learn more.
This article is a service of Ruberg Law PLLC. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed, empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Planning Session during which you will get financially organized and decide what YOU want for YOUR family. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule your Planning Session at no charge.