As adult children leave home, move across the country in some cases, and start families of their own, it can be challenging to bring everyone together to discuss the sensitive topic of making an estate plan. Since many families travel hundreds of miles to be together for the Holidays, this can be the ideal time to approach the subject. In a best-case scenario, parents would bring up estate planning first since they are the ones who need to divide their estate. However, it’s important to time things right regardless of who brings it up first.
Talk in a Quiet Environment if Possible
With people enjoying a big meal and frequently passing food, Thanksgiving dinner itself might not be the best time to discuss creating an estate plan. Immediately after the meal might not work so well either since people are full, tired, and eager to catch up with one another. Waiting for at least an hour and then finding a private space for parents and adult children to talk can work well when the holiday is one of the few times during the year that everyone is together. Someone should agree to keep children occupied to prevent them from interrupting the discussion.
If parents can’t or won’t bring up the topic of estate planning, one of the adult children will need to make the first move. This can work out well if the holiday meal is at the parents’ home because an adult son or daughter can start the conversation by asking where they keep important financial documents and whether they would be willing to provide a list of passwords. From there, the conversation should naturally gravitate towards the types of plans the family needs to make together.
Have a Goal of Understanding, Not Necessarily Agreement
In a topic that can be as personal as estate planning, agreeing to some ground rules before starting will help everyone remain on task. Having each family member write down the topics they want to discuss and then taking turns doing so can save a lot of time in the family meeting. Some possible topics that might come up include:
- Whether the parents have considered long-term care insurance.
- Whether the parents have prepared their will yet or need help to start the process.
- The parents’ wishes regarding long-term care such as remaining at home, living with an adult child, assisted living, or another option.
- Whether the parents have established a healthcare directive and power of attorney to act on their behalf if they reach a point of not being able to make their own decisions.
- Determining who will act as the executor of the will or trustee of an established trust.
When discussing these sensitive topics, it’s important to remember that many differences of opinion will arise. Family members can still choose to respect one another and remember that any estate planning decisions ultimately belong to older parents.