Hmmm. That doesn’t quite have the cheery phrasing I intended. But I am serious. The holidays can be a great time to have estate planning discussions with loved ones. Particularly for families with loved ones who reside in many places, or who are too busy to get together often, the holidays often bring people together and provide space outside of day-to-day activities to have unhurried, important and meaningful discussions about estate planning.
Here are some tips for starting this important conversation:
How to start? Timing is important here. Think about your family and whether there is down time between meals, after or before the big game, maybe even during a walk together. Also think about how to ease into the discussion. Often, talking about your own estate planning can help. You can discuss decisions you’ve made, including who in your family you’ve chosen as your estate planning helpers, where you keep important documents, and who should be contacted in an emergency. We recommend your estate planning attorney be on that list of who to contact. Starting with our own decisions can lead to a discussion about what decisions other family members have made.
What to discuss? This can be as straight-forward as where do you keep important documents to who to contact in an emergency? You might also ask about health care wishes, typically included in an advance directive or living will. For example, with aging parents, talking about the kind of care they want to receive in the event of an incapacitating illness and whether they want to remain in their current home as long as possible or receive care in a long-term care facility, are important considerations.
Financial concerns are also important. Talking about how loved ones will pay for long-term care if they need it is a crucial part of a health care conversation. As is discussing who they want to inherit their property, whether it’s the holiday decorations with sentimental value or the multi-million-dollar investment account. With 30 trillion in wealth set to change hands between Baby Boomers and their heirs in the coming decades, discussions about wealth transfer are increasingly important. Answering important questions regarding a loved ones’ estate plan is a critical part of making this transition as easy, seamless and tax-free as possible.
How to proceed? This sounds trite, but it is so true. Starting with love in our hearts is what makes these difficult conversations work. Respecting and trying to understand our loved ones’ boundaries and concerns is important. Making sure the conversation is about their needs and desires and helping meet those needs and desires focuses the conversation in a manner that works. Letting them know having a plan in place in the event of an incapacitating illness and for after their death is about them – their life, their legacy and the people they love.
Working with a qualified estate planning attorney can help with these sometimes-challenging conversations. Contact our St. Louis office at 314-303-3218 for if you’d like assistance with these difficult conversations and for help with Estate Planning or Elder Law.
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Written November 11, 2022 by Stephanie Martinez