Now that travel is ramping up because so many of the pandemic restrictions are being lifted, that vacation you’ve been craving after being cooped up during the pandemic may be nearing. While you’re on your trip, it may be a good time with the family all together and relaxed to talk about the future. Maybe you have your estate plan already, or you’re thinking of what you need, either way having the conversation with your loved ones is a huge part of your estate plan and preparing for the future. Here’s what to tell your family about your estate plan and how to have the talk.
We find so many situations in which a family has no idea what their loved one’s wishes are once they’re gone. This can only lead to more stress and grief during an already traumatic time. If something were to happen to you, does your family know what they need to do or what you would want? Here’s why and how you should use your time away to talk to your family about your estate plan.
What to Tell Your Family About Your Estate Plan…
1) Who would be in charge- the people that you have named to be in charge of your financial and health decisions should know your wishes for them to have these responsibilities. The last thing you would want is for them to already be in a tough situation with learning something happened to you, only to be more shocked if they have to make hard decisions on your behalf.
This is especially important if you have minor children. Guardians should know their responsibilities and if you deem appropriate, your kids should know as well who would be taking care of them if something happens to you.
2) Location of documents- let your family know where your estate plan documents are. If there is one person who you think would be a first responder in the situation where these documents may be needed, make sure that person knows where the documents are.
If they are in a safe, make sure whoever that first responder is knows how to get in. If you are able to show them the actual documents then do so, for example if they are in a binder or folder, get them out so they can see what they look like.
3) Who your attorney is- even if your family knows where your estate plan documents are, it is a good idea to make sure they know who your attorney is. This way they know who to turn to if they need guidance on any aspects of your plan and can seek help if there are any issues.
4) Specific wishes- if you have any stipulations in your estate plan that are extremely important to you and you don’t want any confusion, express those to your family. Maybe there is a family heirloom you want to go to a specific relative, or you want a certain amount of money donated to a charity. Let the executors of your estate know these but also let any family members know that may be affected.
How to Talk to Your Family About Your Estate Plan…
While there isn’t one way to start a tough conversation, there are some ways to make it the most beneficial.
- Set a certain time for a meeting and let them know what you’ll be discussing.
- Have a list of topics you want to touch on, for example, if you want to mention your healthcare wishes then write them down so you don’t forget.
- Keep it a conversation instead of a lecture.
- If you and your spouse will both be leading the conversation, make sure you’re on the same page.
- Encourage your family, especially kids, to ask questions.
- Stay calm. Easier said than done, but this should be a conversation that brings peace to your family and not a debate. With an already triggering topic, do your best to relay things as calmly as possible.
All families are unique and there’s no certain plan that will work for every family’s situation when it comes to discussing end of life issues or healthcare decisions after an accident. Ultimately you need to decide what to disclose to your family and when, but our main advice is to not wait. While it can be triggering to think about the end of your life, and for your loved ones to think about losing you, this conversation should provide peace knowing they will be taken care of when you are gone and that there is a plan for a time when they may feel lost.
As always we are here to help! If you already have an estate plan and need updates or a review, or if you need to get started on a plan, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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Disclaimer: This article is intended to serve as a general summary of the issues outlined therein. While this article may include general guidance, it is not intended as, nor is a substitute for, qualified legal advice. Your review or receipt of this article by Lexern Law Offices, Ltd. (the “LLG”) or any of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the LLG. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors of the article and does not reflect the opinion of the LLG.