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Tough Conversations About Estate Planning Around the Holidays

In a world driven by social media, it’s easy to feel as if, despite all the insight we have into each other’s lives, our loved ones are further away than ever. And indeed, the data bears this out. A recent study shows the average modern family is spread 2,077 miles across the world and most adults have a relative they have not seen face-to-face for five or more years. Parents, children, aunts and uncles are more distant despite being more connected than ever and this makes estate planning conversations hard to have.

Naturally, you want everyone involved to be present when you broach the subject of what you wish to happen when you die. Not only is this a matter of fairness, but it is one of caring (which, incidentally, are two of the main reasons most people establish an estate plan anyway). A lot can come up when you talk to your family about your final wishes and so you want to tread lightly and do so in person.

Increasingly, the holidays are the only time of year that families that are split across the globe can gather, and so it may just be that estate planning conversations become as much a tradition as turkey. After all, talking about your final wishes isn’t a one-time event—it’s a process that evolves and involves both you and your family. The conversation will be ongoing, and yet the sooner you start the better. Here’s where to begin:

Estate Planning Conversations 101: How to Talk to Your Family Without Spoiling the Holidays

1. Put Yourself in their Shoes

Imagine you’re headed to your parents for what you expect to be a relaxing Christmas dinner only to discover that your mom is serving estate planning for dessert. You might be surprised, frustrated, or even panicked. You probably would have appreciated a heads-up and your guests probably would have as well.

How to talk to your family about wanting to talk with them is something only you know how to do. Maybe you should send a group text; maybe you should call everyone individually; or maybe you should pass the message down the grapevine—whatever your approach, it’s important that you give everyone the time they need to rally their thoughts before they arrive.

2. Prepare Like Your Life’s Work Depended on It 

There’s a lot to talk about where estate planning is concerned and so it helps to arrive prepared. Ahead of gathering your loved ones, inventory your assets, reflect on who may get what, and speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about the roles that need to be filled.

Whether it be in this first conversation or a follow-up, you eventually need to appoint an estate executor, financial power of attorney agent, healthcare representative, and, in some cases, trustees. And, each position will need a potential successor in case the first-named person is unwilling or unable to serve in that capacity.  Before you can determine who is best suited for each role, you first need to understand what each role involves.

3. Seek Legal Counsel

Despite what all the DIY services online may tell you, an experienced estate planning attorney is an indispensable resource in organizing your financial and medical affairs both during your lifetime and after your death. Not only can they answer all questions about the different parts of the process, but they can also share decades of experience guiding countless families through the process. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t for people in all kinds of situations and, therefore, can help you and your loved ones avoid pitfalls that may otherwise be hard to anticipate.

To learn more about how best to begin the estate planning conversation with your family this year during the holidays, do not hesitate to reach out to The Law Firm of Blanche D. Smith either by calling (936) 301-0111 or using the contact form below.

Monique Hineline

Smith & Smith are very professional, informative, and relatable with examples and stories to ease the estate planning process. I had the best time at their lunch and learn. Even if you already have your estate planning in place I highly recommend attending a lunch and learn. Thanks Smith & Smith!