The holidays are here, bringing the joyous season of gathering with family and loved ones into full swing. It is the time to slow down, get caught up with loved ones, and enjoy the family, and experience quality time around the dinner table. It is also a great idea to take this opportunity to review your estate plan and talk about the topic with your loved ones.
Do Not Be Indifferent
While the entire topic of estate planning can be a touchy subject, covering your eyes about the issue is not good for you or your family. According to a Caring.com survey from 2017, as many as six in ten Americans do not have any estate planning documents put together – documents such as a will or a trust. This is particularly alarming when it is estimated that $30 trillion in wealth is set to transfer between baby boomers and their heirs in the next few years. Accordingly, it is vital that families discuss estate planning well in advance of an emergency or life tragedy – while the eldest members of the family are still physically and mentally healthy. Leaving the topic to chance can result in family discord, leading to disastrous or costly outcomes.
Time it Right
Not surprisingly, estate planning is a topic that does not come up in everyday conversation. And randomly informing your loved ones who will get your things when you die or if you become incapacitated will likely damper the holiday spirit.
There are ways, however, to discuss estate planning during this season with grace and tact. Instead, choose or make a time when you and your loved ones can be together and talk within a comfortable, calm, and private environment. Make sure that everyone is sober and relaxed, and distractions are at a minimum, so the conversation stays on track.
In an ideal situation, the parents – or the elders – will bring up the subject. Sometimes, however, they refuse to discuss estate planning. In such a case, children have to broach the subject. Asking where important papers and records are kept is a great start.
Boundaries Are Important
Once you find the time, place, and opportunity for the conversation about estate planning to happen make sure to set down some ground rules. Keep the discussion as transparent as possible, perhaps by having each family member address their thoughts, questions, or wishes and discuss together. Remember that you do not have to tell your family every detail of your plan’s contents. However, discussing your wishes and answering questions can help allay some fears and confusion. Some items that may be on the list to discuss may include:
- Notifying them that you have a will or living trust that spells out how assets will be divided when you die or become incapacitated;
- Explaining to them how a will or a trust is administered (we can help you with this);
- Letting them know who will act as the executor of your will or trustee of your trust;
- Explaining that if you become incapacitated, you have a durable power of attorney in place, and the appointed agent will handle your financial affairs while you are unable to do so;
- Discussing who will serve as your agent under your financial power-of-attorney;
- Talking about your end of life wishes, and your medical directives;
- Discussing who will serve as your agent or surrogate for medical decisions if you are unable to do so; and
- Explaining to your family how to handle any long-term care situations, if necessary.
While discussing estate planning needs can be straightforward and simple, the conversation can quickly become complicated when personalities clash or emotions get in the way. The main goal is to let your family and loved ones know you have a plan, without needing to go into detail about the plan’s contents. We can help parents and children come together and create an appropriate plan that will meet your family’s short- and long-term estate planning needs.