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Stop Avoiding an Estate Plan Conversation

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November 9, 2020

What topics do you like to discuss with your family members? Movies. Books. Netflix. Weather. Quarantine.

These are all relatively easy topics to discuss.

When was the last time you threw estate planning into the mix of a conversation with your family? That’s right. Estate planning!

Of course, not many people want to discuss this item. Because it often means something tragic or heartbreaking has happened within your family. But it is a necessity. It is important for you to know the plans of family members. And for family members to know your plans.

Who needs to know? 

Obviously not every family member needs to know your estate plans. You know your family members best and their tendencies and responses. However, make sure the people you trust know about your estate plan. This is especially important for those you have directly named within your estate plan with decision-making power or responsibilities. No one wants to be surprised with being in charge of something. Ideally, you will talk to those specific people while you are creating your estate plan.

What should you share?

Again. Not everyone needs to know every detail, but make sure you provide enough detail for them to understand. For those who will have decision-making power or responsibilities, take the time to discuss some of the decisions and wishes you have outlined.

Make sure those listed within know where you keep your estate plan paperwork, know the contact information of your attorney and financial planner, and have copies of specific documents, such as your living will or health care power of attorney.

If you travel often to visit family members, consider giving those family members copies. While you may have a living will or health care power of attorney paperwork on file with your doctor or hospital, make sure the proper decision makers have copies for those moments where minutes matter and files aren’t easily accessible.

How do you start the conversation? 

It can be a hard conversation to start initially, or so it seems. I mean you are discussing very important and personal information. A few simple prompts can open the door. This can include talking about someone in the news who didn’t have an estate plan and leading into asking or talking about estate plans. It can include discussing similar situations occurring to your friends or family members. Sometimes it means just being direct and saying, “We really need to talk about your/our estate plan.” This doesn’t mean the conversation will automatically flow into a long discussion, but it does open the door so the conversation will continue.

How often does this conversation need to happen? 

Ideally, this conversation will happen often. It is not a conversation to have once and mark off your “To Do” list. As life changes, so should your estate plan. Even if your estate plan doesn’t change, these are important conversations to continually have. It not only reaffirms your estate plan but may also give insight into the reasons behind your decisions.

Don’t fear these conversations. Embrace them. One conversation at a time.

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