How To Talk To Your Family About Estate Planning

by Rania Combs on November 21, 2012

Even in very close families, discussions about estate planning are uncomfortable. It’s difficult to know the right time to bring up the subject, or even what to say.

Children of elderly parents often worry that talking about estate planning will cause parents to think they are rushing them to the grave or care way too much about protecting an inheritance. Parents worry that their children may get too emotional about the subject or get upset if they intend to distribute their estate unequally.

But death is inevitable. And dying with getting having an estate plan can not only make the process of settling an estate significantly more challenging, but can also result in family discord.

So if you’re a part of a family that gathers only infrequently during holidays, find an opportunity during your long weekend together to discuss estate planning matters that you may have been putting off.

If you’re not sure about how to broach the topic, here are a few tips:

  1. For most, talking about death and incapacity is unwelcome dinner conversation, so don’t mention it there. Enjoy your meal. Count your blessings. Laugh and enjoy your company.
  2. Bring up the topic casually at another time, perhaps on a long walk or a shopping trip. Talk about an article you may have read about conflicts that can arise in cases of intestacy. Mention that you recently prepared your estate plan and ask whether they have one in place.
  3. If you’re a parent who intends to make an unequal distribution of property, explain your reasoning to your adult children. For more information this topic, read: When Equal is Not Equitable: How To Give One Child Less.
  4. If an estate plan is in place, discuss whether any changes have occurred that would trigger the need for an update. For information when an update may be necessary, read: How Often Should I Update My Will?
  5. Ask where estate planning documents and other important papers are located. The best estate plans are worthless if they can’t be found. Recommend getting important information together with a Personal Records Organizer.
  6. Always approach the subject up with love, respect, and genuine concern.

Having these conversations may be uncomfortable, but is something that will bring you and your family peace of mind. And that is something to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This lovely photo is used courtesy of and copyright Free Range Stock, www.freerangestock.com., and James R. Gray.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ellen Oshiro August 29, 2014 at 11:42 am

Estate Planning….why are people afraid to take this step? It is the most loving thing to do for your family and heirs! TWO things are for sure: LIFE IS IMPERMANENT and DEATH IS GUARANTEED. Preparation is key to minimize chaos when you die. Just do it!

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