For many people, the holidays are some of the few times a year that the entire family is together. Your family members are more relaxed and not as distracted by everyday obligations. It’s a great time to catch up, make memories, and discuss some important matters like estate planning. While it may feel awkward to initiate this kind of conversation, it is important to discuss what you intend for your estate during a time when adjustments can be made in a good frame of mind.
Here are 6 tips to make talking about wills, trusts, and your wishes a success over the holidays:
- Bring Up Celebrity Examples
If your family is reluctant to talk about these sensitive subjects, ease into the conversation. Begin a conversation by bringing up examples of celebrity estate planning. Start with the story of Ray Charles, who sat down with his 12 kids and their 9 mothers to discuss what he planned for his estate – if he can have that conversation, you can have this one. Encourage your loved ones to be as open about the situation as Ray Charles. Joke about his situation and turn an uncomfortable situation into something entertaining and productive.
- Prepare Your Paperwork
Once you have figured out who will be handling the key roles related to your estate, get the documents drafted in order to officially put your final wishes into place. Don’t forget to include an Advance Healthcare Directive, which states your preferences for medical treatment.
Having copies for everyone can help ensure that there is no room for misinterpretation about what you want. Everyone has to be on the same page, and that is your page.
- Respect Boundaries and Answer Questions
Once you find an opportunity for the conversation of estate planning, make sure to set down some ground rules. Keep the discussion transparent by having every member of the family address their thoughts, questions, or wishes and discuss them openly. Some good topics to address include:
- Who will act as the executor of your will or trustee of your trust.
- Who will serve as your agent under your financial power-of-attorney and patient advocate under your healthcare power-of-attorney.
- How to handle medical or long-term care situations if necessary.
- Remember it’s an Ongoing Conversation
Although an estate plan feels final, a lot can change by the time it will be put into action. It is important for family members to understand that, as circumstances change, you may update your decisions along the way, so don’t feel pressured to lay out every single detail in the initial conversation.
It is a good idea to set the expectation for your family members that things will change. Explain how you will have to take things like new marriages, divorces, and newborns into consideration over time.
- Establish the Location of the Documents
Creating an estate plan is a great first step, however it is useless if your family doesn’t know where to find it. If estate documents are never located, then that trustee or executor can’t access them in order to put them into effect. There is no point in hiding the will or trust so well that no one will ever be able to find it. You might consider putting it in a safe deposit box so everyone knows where it is located and a designated person will have access to it when the time comes.
- Have the Discussion Before the Celebration Begins
Many families celebrate the holidays with champagne and spiked eggnog. However, it is important that everyone has a clear mind and can fully understand your wishes when you have this conversation.
Alcohol can make family members emotional and make the estate planning discussion much more dramatic than it needs to be. Simply ask the family to take a seat and have a quick conversation before popping the bottles open.
If you have more questions about estate planning pertaining to you or a family member, contact a lawyer for legal assistance. Call the trusted estate planning attorneys at Lowthorp, Richards, McMillan, Miller & Templeman at (805) 981-8555 or fill out our online contact form.