How To Talk To Family About Wills And Estate Planning

February 10, 2022

In our office, we say all the time planning for the future is the best gift you can give your family, and we mean it. Discussion of wills and estate planning isn’t exactly casual conversation for family meals or phone calls on other subjects. So how do you talk about it with family? The reality is that broaching the subject of someone’s mortality can be tricky. Discussing death can cause both expected and unexpected emotions to bubble up. You can do this though. It’s all about finding the right time, framing the conversation, and planning for the discussion.

The Mission

Determine if your family member has a will. If so, is it current and comprehensive? The goal is for your family members and loved ones to have a will and estate plan that reflects their current wishes for their property after they have left this world. If they don’t have a will, better to know now when they still have time to have one prepared. Help them find an attorney who can help them. It’s important. Having a will helps accomplish and protect the legacy of a loved one.

Timing

Find a good time to bring up planning and preparing for the future. Identifying a good time can start with identifying times that are not good for the discussion—large family gatherings, phone calls constricted for time discussing other things, funerals for other family members (too many emotions), children’s events or when small children are present and may need attention, etc. The goal would be a setting that allows for a more honest, intimate conversation, and timing is all about choosing a time that isn’t already stressful, rushed, or emotionally charged. My personal favorite setting for more honest, difficult conversations is in the car where neither person can run away from the conversation! Once the topic is raised, allow your family member some time to think on it, process, and consider their wishes. It may take multiple conversations and ongoing discussions before they are ready to commit their intentions and wishes to writing.

Keep it Positive

People may assume discussing wills and estate planning is sad, morbid, or overwhelming. It can be all or some of those things, but truthfully, it’s all about how you frame it. It’s more than what happens to your stuff after you die. It’s thinking through the legacy you want to leave behind. There are so many things today that we don’t have control over, but this isn’t one of them. Explain to your loved ones that they have worked hard throughout their lives for what they have been able to save, collect, build, grow, etc. Empower your loved ones to carefully consider the legacy they want to leave behind for their family, friends, and community. These are important decisions that a person can control and direct after passing through a will. It doesn’t have to be scary or stressful. Keep the conversation complimentary of their hard work and effort throughout their lives. We all know we can’t take things with us when we pass. Challenge your loved ones to consider what they would like to happen to their property, their important personal belongings, family heirlooms, etc. The truth is if they don’t tell someone and document it, no one will ever know. Encourage your loved ones to take control over the future and their legacy.

 

Emotionally processing the loss of a loved one is enough without stressing or fighting about how to figure out what to do about the estate. Empower your loved ones to take charge of the legacy they will leave, if not for themselves, then for the loved ones who they leave behind. Knowing your loved one’s wishes and intentions have been accomplished will bring you and your family comfort and peace of mind in a difficult time.

For more information about wills and estate planning, contact our team at info@gayjoneslaw.com.