No one wants to think about someone they love dying so discussing estate planning can be tough.  People find it private or too morbid to discuss.  Some are even superstitious about the situation thinking that having the discussion will make bad things happen. Talking about estate planning does take a lot of courage but it can also help avoid surprises, lead to better financial planning and promote family harmony.   Forbes.com recently released an article with 7 tips for having the conversation.

1.  Don’t schedule an appointment to talk about estate planning, bring it up while your doing something else.
2.  Use a story of a friend who encountered a hardship to bring up the topic.
3.  To avoid a hostile environment, talk to children separately.
4.  Communicate as a couple and decide on what you want to focus on.
5.  Share your intentions with you children and ask what they think but don’t feel obligated to change your mind if they disagree.
6.  Let your children know why you made your decisions.  This is particulary important if assets aren’t divided equally.
7.  Back off if you need to.  If your parents think that you are just trying to protect your inheritance don’t push the issue.

How To Start A Conversation About Estate Planning

Many people consider estate planning too private or morbid to discuss. There’s even an element of superstition that talking about bad things will cause them to happen. But while having these conversations takes a lot of courage, they can help avoid surprises, lead to better financial planning and promote family harmony. For a cautionary tale of what can happen otherwise, read “In Battle For Thomas Kinkade Estate, Girlfriend Doesn’t Have A Prayer.”

Choose the moment

Scheduling a conversation can work better than catching someone on short notice, but it also gives you both an excuse to procrastinate. Another possibility: bring this up while you’re doing something else, such as taking a walk, says Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown University linguistics professor and author of You Just Don’t Understand.

Use stories as openers

Often it’s easier to start with current events or an anecdote–a news report about someone who recently died or a story about a the sudden death of a friend who hadn’t planned and how much hardship that caused the family. A child could tell her mother: “I just did my own estate plan. Don’t you think you should update yours?”

Divide and conquer

How families handle delicate issues depends both on the particular circumstances and the personalities involved. Sometimes it is best to have a series of talks, rather than covering everything all at once. To reduce the possibility of a hostile audience, parents may talk to each child separately, rather than addressing them as a group.

Communicate as a couple

Think about what plays best with your mate. You could emphasize your own mortality (“I’d like to talk about ways to provide for you and the family in case something happens to me”) make it a subject of mutual concern (“We’re not getting any younger”) or focus on the kids. (“Now that we are parents, we really need to draw up wills.”)

Smooth the way with children

Parents who share their estate planning intentions risk hostility from adult children who do not like what they hear. Afterward, ask each child, “What do you think?” While parents have no obligation to change an estate plan after hearing a child’s preferences, disclosing what they plan can help refine their approach.

Explain your reasoning

Charles W. Collier, author of Wealth in Families, encourages parents “to tell their children the principles that have guided their decision”– something his own father didn’t do. Although all of his father’s other assets were split equally, the family’s vacation home went solely to Collier, which left one of his three sisters resentful.

Avoid Head Butts

Confrontation can paralyze your effort, especially with an elderly parent who thinks you’re just protecting your own inheritance. (Sometimes it’s better to back off, rather than poison your final years together.) Those who encounter pushback from a spouse or partner have a special card to play: “We owe this much to each other.”

Estate planning can be a very complicated procedure but the more you know the better off you are.  You should also use a tax or estate planning attorney when needed so that you can make sure that nothing is missed.  Attorneys can also sometimes be a mediator between the parents and children if things get hostile.

 

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