As we head into the thick of the holiday season, you’re likely spending more time than usual surrounded by family and friends.
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 under one roof, the holidays provide the ideal opportunity to talk about
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, 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 focus 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 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 sharing about sensitive topics.
2. Create an agenda, and set a start and stop time
To ensure you can cover every subject 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 address can help ensure you don’t forget anything.
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 points 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 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, I’ve seen it breed conflict, resentment, and 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. Mention any specific questions or concerns you initially had about planning and how you addressed 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.
For the love of your family
Though death and incapacity can be awkward topics 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 clearer about the lives they want to live during the short time we have here on earth.
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.
Most importantly this holiday season, enjoy being in the moment and strengthening your bonds with the important people in your life.
Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,