There may never be a perfect time to speak with the older members of your family about their estate plan, but a summer vacation is just about as good as it gets. Not only do you get the benefit of spending time with your loved ones, but you can finally settle a concern that you can be sure has been on their minds, as well.
Need a few pointers for how to break the ice? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered:
Broaching the Subject
Do not start off in a way that comes across as you wanting something from them. Even if they know the conversation is one worth having, this approach tends to raise the defenses–whether it be out of distaste at the thought of sharing the intimate details of their financial situation with their children, or a deeper, lurking fear of their mortality.
Here are two tried and true methods. It’s up to you to decide which better fits your loved one’s temperament.
Talk about your own situation
The simplest way to put someone at ease with talking about estate planning is to lead by example. Speak first about your own finances and, when the time is right, drop an offhand comment about how you have recently begun planning your own estate. This gives your loved one the opportunity to ask questions and and think through their own situation. This should prove an easy segue into discussing them. You may be surprised–they might even take the initiative!
Believe me, the number of big-name celebrities who leave their families the seeds of anger and disharmony is tragically large–see our many articles on the subject, here. Raising these kinds of stories will need some subtlety, especially if neither you nor they have ever been the sort to take interest in that kind of thing. If they perceive you as advancing an agenda, you’ve already lost. Instead, use one of these stories as above–transition into your own effort in estate planning and move onto theirs if they prove receptive.
Slow and Easy
Even when they know their financial lives are in dire need of outside intervention, most people are very hesitant to give up their financial independence. Rather than putting pressure on them, adopt a more reassuring tone. Offer your unconditional assistance and take the inroads as they come. Small things like using their online bank account and bill pay or organizing their tax information are perfect ways to offer to lend a hand.
Don’t overstep your bounds
If they start having a hard time meeting your eyes and begin responding with little more than “yes,” “no,” and “maybe,” you might have crossed a line that they were not yet ready to cross. Talking about such personal matters candidly is hard for everyone, and especially so between parent and child. It can be easy to just take a step back, change the subject, and save it for another time, but it can be difficult to say just how many more chances you both will get.
Make sure you get at least one essential before ending the conversation: the location of their important documents, should it be needed. Emphasize that your intent is not to control them, but to leave you and your siblings an easier way forward when that time comes.
What you can do
Sometimes initiating a conversation with parents about estate planning can be easier with the help of someone who is outside of the family and who knows all about estate planning – like us. We can help with a family estate planning consultation session. Call our office today at 612-206-3701 or reach out via our online contact form to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about designing an estate plan that fits the needs of you and your family.
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