The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw
Estate planning is a touchy subject for many families. It’s not fun to think about death, and it’s even less fun to talk about it with your parents or your children. Going about the talk the wrong way can lead to conflict, which is the last thing that any family wants. But no matter whether your family has vast amounts of wealth or only modest savings, it’s important to have a conversation about how it should be distributed and how decisions should be made. Even more important is having the proper plan in place to help care for any dependents.
To make things easier on you and your family, I wanted to use this blog post to think of a way to make the dreaded estate planning conversation a little more bearable. Asking these five questions should help spouses, parents, and adult children alike.
Did you hear about so and so?
Starting a conversation on any sensitive subject requires tact. Being blunt about wanting to have a conversation about estate planning with a parent or spouse is a good way to make sure that you never have the conversation. People don’t like to feel like they are being cornered, so it’s best to bring the subject up during regular conversation. One way to do that is to use current events as a guide. Search the local or even national news for examples of estate planning mistakes or probate horror stories (it shouldn’t be difficult to find one) and use that to get the conversation going.
What estate planning do you have in place?
If you are an adult child who is curious about how your parents’ estate planning will affect you, learning what, if any, estate planning your parents have done is critical. Once you get the conversation going, ask what estate planning is currently in place.
Some important documents to have in place for any estate plan include:
- Wills and Trusts
- Durable power of attorney
- Healthcare power of attorney
- Beneficiary designations
- Guardianship designations, for adults with special needs and minor dependents
What are your thoughts?
As a parent, you might be worried about alienating one or more of your children with the decisions you make in your estate plan. To ease tensions, ask for input from your children. You don’t have to take any action if they have problems with your decisions, but knowing their opinions could help you see a new perspective.
Why did you make that decision?
On the other hand, if you are an adult child, don’t be afraid to ask for the reasoning behind your parents’ decisions.
Can you teach me to make your famous apple pie?
Parents want to pass more than money and property on to their children. They want to be remembered with fondness. They might want their kids to carry on the family traditions. Asking for a family recipe or to be more involved in the family business not only meets these desires but can also provide an opportunity to talk about financial and legal matters.
Have you already had the conversation but haven’t yet put a plan in place? Get in touch with me today.