The holidays are right around the corner. The family will be getting together and spending time with one another. Perhaps you are considering getting your own estate planning in order. Maybe you are concerned about whether or not your parents have completed their own estate planning. Either way, you need to make sure to proceed with caution if you want to have a talk about something as important as estate planning with your family.
Don't Ambush The Family
Many times, the people who do not know about the discussion ahead of time can be caught off guard. This can cause problems when the children feel like they have no say in the matter. They feel like they are just being told what is going to happen, who will be taking care of things, and when they may or may not receive an inheritance. On the reverse, if children are talking to their own parents and urging the parents to get their estate planning taken care of, the parents may also feel like they were blind-sided, and may also become defensive. It is never easy for a parent to be given advice or told what to do by his or her own child, even if it is done out of love and concern.
The easiest way to avoid this problem is to give everyone a heads up that you wish to discuss estate planning over the holidays. At the very least, make it very clear that you want to change the subject in a conversation and that you want to talk about either your or your family member's estate planning. This will allow everyone to have a more productive conversation and will not leave anyone feeling like they were ambushed at the dinner table.
Ask For Input
Another way to derail this conversation is to make it one-sided. Many times, fights can occur when people are simply "told" how things should be handled instead of asking for the thoughts of others. It is much better to begin by talking about why this is important and what your concerns are that are causing you to start the conversation. Then, ask the other family members what they think about your suggestions or your concerns. This changes the conversation from you telling them what needs to happen to a collaborative discussion about how to address an issue.
This is especially important if you are attempting to convince a parent to get his or her own estate planning taken care of. Try to think about it from their perspective. They probably will be put on the defensive when another family member surprises them and starts telling them how to manage their own affairs. Make sure you ask them what they think they need and what their plan is to get things taken care of. Also, be very clear about why you are bringing this up.
Finish Up With An Action Plan
Procrastination can be tempting to everyone. The worst thing that can happen after having a productive conversation is for nothing to come of it. After a while, everyone goes back to their normal lives, and estate planning may go on the back burner (where it has already been for years). Make sure that once the family is comfortable with the solution (or at least agrees that an estate plan needs to be created or updated), they should contact their estate planning attorney and schedule a meeting. Even if they schedule the meeting for after the new year, it is important to take the next step so that all of the time and effort spent coming up with a plan is not wasted. Otherwise, your family could be in the exact same situation next year and have to start all over. Or worse, if someone's health were to decline rapidly, it may be too late.
If you or someone you know is ready to create or update their own estate plan, call The Rosenbauer Law Office, LLC at 513-463-6789 to talk about your options.