How to Talk to Your Family About Estate Planning

It's never easy speaking to loved ones about arrangements after their deaths. Estate planning can be scary and stressful, but the earlier you start communicating, the sooner your family will be comfortable making the best choices. Below are a few tips on how to broach the subject of estate planning without appearing callous.

Share Your Thoughts with Everyone

Before approaching your elders, speak with the rest of your family. Make sure everyone involved is on the same page and aware of specific arrangements. Have every family member write down their opinions and requests, solutions and alternatives. When you start the conversation with your elders, share these thoughts together, as a family.

Important Questions About the Future

Once everyone has shared their thoughts, there are a few important questions that should be asked of your elders:

  1. Where do you want to retire?
  2. When do you want to retire?
  3. How much money do you need to achieve the above?
  4. What is the best course of action to obtain this money (pension, savings, sale of estate properties)

These initial questions will create the building blocks for your plan.

The Basic Reason Wills and Trusts Are Important

Some families may not have begun the estate planning process because they're simply uninformed. By talking to your family members about the basic reasons for estate planning, you may be giving them the push they need to start planning. People create wills and trusts for a few basic reasons:

  1. They want to pass their assets on to family rather than let the government gain control of their estate.
  2. They want to keep peace in the family by identifying who gets what before they die.
  3. They want to plan ahead for expected and unexpected costs that may arise, including the care of a spouse.




Acknowledge That You Understand: This Is Their Money!

Your involvement as a family member should be limited to providing information and planning.

You want to make sure your elders' wishes are respected, not dictate final decisions or rule over what your family has built. The final word still lies with them.

Stay focused on your elders' concerns, not yours. They may be worried about outliving their resources or causing a feud between siblings. Don't take offense if they feel uncomfortable speaking with the family about these issues. It may be better to refer them to a financial planner and continue to lend support on their terms.

Don't Go Behind Other Family Members' Backs!

When assisting in your elders' estate planning, don't keep information from other family members or go behind their backs. Even though you may have the best intensions, these actions may be interpreted as greed. Keep the lines of communication open and give everyone the chance to have their concerns addressed. Remember, your job is not to make decisions—it is only to lend support.

The topic of money can be the root of many arguments and family confrontations, but the sooner your family discusses estate planning and initiates a plan, the sooner your elders can relax and enjoy their golden years comfortably and well-prepared for life's next chapters.