How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About Estate Plans
You've taken an important step in beginning your estate planning. It's important to discuss with your family that you are ready to take care of this responsibility, but how do you broach the subject? It's hard enough to start the conversation with your lawyer.
No one wants to confront their death or the death of a loved one. So the discomfort level is high from the start. And then there's the fact that talking about financial matters has been touted as more difficult than discussing sex in our society. But this sensitive subject needs to be addressed while you're still capable of making the most informed decisions possible about your estate.
Talking about your ideas is also a great way to communicate your wishes and desires.
By creating an estate plan, you show your family that you've taken the proper steps to plan for the future, wishing to take a lot of stress and worry away from your loved ones.
After all, estate planning is as much about taking care of your surviving family as it is about ensuring your final wishes are carried out. You have to remember that your family will be grieving and not in the emotional state to make important decisions.
This is why working through the initial discomfort now will save stress and strife later on.
You can lay out the choices you're considering: asset distribution, funeral arrangements and organ donation decisions, as well as whom you may want to handle the responsibilities that will come in the future.
You'll also be finding out what level of responsibility your spouse and family members are comfortable with assuming after your death. You may discover during this process that there are aspects of your estate that should be left in the hands of a professional. You want to know such information now so you can create the best plan for your estate and surviving family. Often, trusts will be part of this plan, and a professional can help you decide which kinds of trusts will work best for you.
One of the most vital reasons to open lines of communications about your estate is to discover the differing ideas about what would honor your memory or how you'd like to have certain financial matters handled. By drawing up a clear and thorough plan, you're making your wishes known and relieving your family of the stress of making future decisions on your behalf.
And an intangible benefit of involving your family in your estate planning is the establishment of your family's legacy, helping to firmly determine important family values and developing a common understanding of what is most important — thus solidifying your family's legacy and empowering them to feel confident about the future.
This is the time to identify the secure place you intend to keep your estate planning documents and files. Remember that any official documents may need to be witnessed and/or notarized, so be sure to make arrangements to have documents properly executed. Eventually, you'll want to hand copies to family members with your attorney's contact information, plus any user names and passwords they may need.
Tips for these sensitive discussions:
- Remove yourself emotionally from the situation.
- In future talks about specific details, have an estate planning professional present to help take any emotional heat off you.
- An attorney can come up with answers to tough questions you may not feel comfortable fielding.
- Stay as organized as possible — your attorney will let you know what the legal requirements are in your state for executing estate planning documents.
Keep in mind that because life is unpredictable, you and your family should understand that the plan is fluid — as time passes, your priorities may shift. Keep lines of communication open about decisions that have been updated or modified.
Most important to remember: If talking to your family about such delicate subjects still has you feeling uncomfortable, consult an experienced estate planning attorney at the start.