If you didn’t grow up discussing estate plans with your parents, it’s likely that you may be hesitating to talk to your children and grandchildren about your estate plans. But these conversations don’t have to be scary or daunting. The following are a few of our favorite tips to make the conversations (yes, plural) easier:
- Don’t wait or be afraid. Clients often tell us that they feel like their children aren’t old enough or that they haven’t updated their estate plan in years. Attorneys we work with often tell us anecdotes of how clients don’t regularly review their estate plans, and some attorneys don’t prompt them to do so. Besides just acquiring a new asset, or welcoming a new family member, there are a number of times it makes sense to revisit your estate plan, including changes to the law or a change in your primary residence. A small investment now can save your estate, and your heirs, a large headache, and possibly expense later.
- Be sensitive to the various ages and maturity levels within the family. While we encourage being inclusive with conversations, not all levels of detail or word choices are appropriate for all family members. Similarly, selectively sharing information with one family member can also be a recipe for hurt feelings. Be mindful of family nuances, but don’t be afraid to be assertive. Estate planning is tied to family responsibility and identity for all parties involved.
- Along those lines, the formal sit down in the boardroom can be overwhelming and unnecessarily add tension to the discussion. While a serious matter, we encourage clients to be conversational. However, you should be clear that this is you (and your spouse/partner) discussing your wishes and not, asking for advice or opinions. Unless you are. A private room at a restaurant or club, or your dining room table can be ideal settings.
- Take advantage of natural opportunities. We’re not suggesting to immediately launch into a conversation following the death of a family member, as this can be insensitive. But opportunities come up in the course of the day from time to time that can be a great jumping point. For example, if you’re talking about a home repair, or home sales in the area, this can be a very natural way to steer the conversation into what your plans are with your property assets.
- Estate planning is a present participle, indicating that there generally isn’t just one conversation, or perhaps shouldn’t be. Breaking up the discussion can make it seem less daunting, and may help you adjust your framing (not your choices, necessarily) depending on the type of response you’re getting as you have these conversations.
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