For many people, estate planning is an avoided topic at family gatherings. After all, few of us can imagine artfully steering a dinner conversation from, “How long did you roast the turkey?” to “How long would you like to be on life support?” Complacency is a main reason more than 120 million Americans don’t have up-to-date estate plans, leaving themselves, their families, and their financial assets vulnerable.*
Despite how awkward it may seem, discussing end-of-life wishes now, can reduce emotional and financial upheaval later. It allows loved ones to avoid confusion when it comes to your final wishes, protects family and friends by ensuring they receive any assets you’ve left, and helps prevent or reduce conflict among family members.
How and when do you broach this difficult topic? Some experts believe the best time to initiate this conversation is when children are in their mid-20s and parents are not yet retired. Ideally, children will be mature enough to appreciate the importance of the situation and parents will be mentally sharp. Try starting the conversation with an anecdote about someone you know or read about. A third party account of suffering through family drama and conflict because a loved one passed away and did not have an estate plan in place can be powerful. You can then express your desire to avoid such strife by having end-of-life wishes discussed and documented in an estate plan.
Be sure to acknowledge that your reason for raising the issue is to share (parents) or learn (children) details about end-of-life wishes and make it clear that you have the interests of the entire family in mind. Here are a few tips to ensure the conversation goes well.
- Decide in advance what you need to discuss. Do you want to talk about a will, healthcare proxy, or power of attorney? If so, keep the conversation focused on these key points.
- Gather your family for an intimate, face-to-face conversation rather than speaking over the phone. This will allow everyone to hear the same thing at the same time. If logistics present a problem, get everyone together on FaceTime or Skype.
- Don’t simply announce who you’ve designated to handle your finances when you die—for example a child or power of attorney—offer an explanation as to why you selected that person (i.e., “She lives closest to us,” or, in the case of an attorney, “We didn’t want you children to have to handle the stress.”)
- Provide context. If you plan to divide the assets unequally, explain why. Don’t leave loved ones guessing.
Estate plans document some of the most important decisions people make during their lifetimes. While the gravity and finality of plans can dissuade families from talking about them, they also underscore the importance of sharing this information with loved ones.
At Allen Capital Group, our goal is to ensure that our clients and their families are cared for through every stage of life in accordance with their goals. That includes providing clients who are approaching the later stages of life with expert financial advice to help them develop an estate plan and offering them guidance on how to have these important conversations with loved ones.Need Help With Estate Planning? Contact Us Today.