Life has very few guarantees. Paying taxes and dying are two guarantees that impact every single person no matter gender, socio-economic status, religion or ethnicity. We pay taxes every year and talk about how much we like or dislike taxes with just about anyone who will listen. Yet, we often find it difficult to talk with our loved ones about the need to prepare for passing away. This hesitancy then begs the question, “How do I talk with my (husband/wife, partner, sibling, child, mother/father…you fill in the blank) about estate planning?”.
Through my years of working 1:1 with families, I have gathered a few pointers that make talking about writing a will or trust a little bit easier.
- Educate yourself. Don’t rely on urban legends and half-truths to formulate your own thoughts about estate planning. Read blogs (like this one!) from trusted sources or listen to interviews such as Why Not Talk About Death.
- Put aside self-interest. Yes, you may really want Grandma’s wedding ring, but approaching the topic of estate planning out of self-interest rarely goes well.
- Practice/role-play.Before beginning this conversation in earnest, rehearse what you would like to say with a friend or confidant. Let them give you feedback on your tone, body language, and content. It might even be a good idea to write down a few salient points so that you don’t get off-track.
- Ask permission. No one likes to be forced to do anything. Asking permission to start the conversation goes a long way in creating a safe environment for honest communication.
- Have realistic expectations. Don’t expect someone to go from “zero” to “let’s talk with an attorney” in one conversation. It may happen that way, but it may not. View this as an ongoing discussion.
- Chose a safe place. Chose a place that makes you and the other party comfortable. For example, take a walk. Sometimes, it is easier to have hard discussions while NOT sitting eye-to-eye with someone. An activity or location in which both parties feel safe creates a positive atmosphere.
- Select an attorney.Just like the medical field, there are generalists and specialists in the legal arena. Working with an attorney whose sole focus is estate planning ensures that you and your loved ones receive relevant and accurate service. Believe it or not, there is more to estate planning than writing a few thoughts on the back of a napkin!
Once your loved one is ready to get started on their will or trust, have them schedule a consultation with Crain & Wooley. Working with us means that you and your loved ones receive best-in-class service provided by highly skilled estate planning attorneys.