Posted on: June 23rd, 2016


“100% of people believe death will occur someday; 99.9% do not believe it will be tomorrow.” Anonymous Client

The quote above is on the last page of our Estate Planning Worksheet, and we think it is an accurate representation on how many people view estate planning.  For many families, confronting the prospect of each other’s deaths can be uncomfortable, but there are often significant benefits to being transparent and discussing estate planning with your family.  Here are some tips to help initiate these discussions with a loved one who does not have a current estate plan:

1)         Choose a positive, comfortable environment during a period of relative calm.  Do not wait until a time of crisis when it may be too late to make adequate plans and family members may not feel emotionally able to talk.

2)         Be sincere about your intentions. Be clear that you are initiating the discussion out of concern that proper plans are in place and are understood.

3)         Stress the importance and benefit of the conversation to everyone affected.  One way to do this is to show an example of an estate that was handled improperly because family members failed to discuss their estate plan with each other.

4)         Speak candidly but kindly to family members about why you want to discuss estate planning or managing your finances, now or in the future.

5)         Listen actively and carefully to their concerns, so you can better relieve any fears.

6)        Make it clear that you want to work together as partners. Estate planning involves discussions about death and finances, two topics families often avoid.  Through open communication, even the most challenging circumstances can bring a family closer together.

7)         Still need help? Ask us.  We are here to help explain the formalities and complexities of estate planning that may be difficult for you to convey to your family.

During the conversation, you want to make sure all your bases are covered.  Make a list of topics you want to cover.  Be sure to include information regarding the location of your important documents, such as your Will, Trust, Powers of Attorney, Birth and Marriage Certificates, Social Security Cards, income tax records and returns, etc.  No specific financial information or values of assets need to be disclosed at this time.  The meeting should be a general explanation of what planning has or should be done, in order to prepare family members for what they can expect and what may need to do if there is a serious disability or death.  Ensure that those selected for roles, such as Trustee or Executor, are comfortable taking those responsibilities.

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