How do I talk to my family about my estate plan?

Estate planning is all about preserving your legacy so your family is cared for after you are gone. To be most effective, this critical planning needs to be a cooperative effort with loved ones involved so everyone knows what to expect ahead of time. While they aren’t always pleasant or comfortable, these conversations need to occur, or the consequences could be devastating for your family.

Why You Need to Talk About Estate Planning, and How to Bring up the Topic

Under normal circumstances, you could bring up this sensitive topic in-person at a family gathering by referencing a news article or a conversation you had with a friend who recently started their own estate plan. Waiting for these topics to arise in conversation may not be feasible in the era of COVID-19, however, and a planned video chat when everyone is present might be better to keep family members safe. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Acknowledge the conversation may be unpleasant. No one wants to think about you dying, but the talk is still important to have.
  • Start with the potential for disability, rather than death, to ease family members into the idea. You may need to eventually grant power of attorney to a loved one if a medical diagnosis means you are unable to make decisions for yourself in the future. Be sure to also make your medical wishes known.
  • Discuss how your values drive your estate planning decisions when it comes to monetary issues and dividing up real estate or heirlooms.
  • Explain that estate planning isn’t just for you, but also for them. Ensure any beneficiaries of your various policies, like life insurance or retirement plans, are aware of what to expect.

The end goal of the conversation is for everyone impacted by your estate planning decisions to become aware of the situation, including children from previous marriages. If you don’t bring up these issues ahead of time and create an estate plan with the help of an attorney, you might end up with:

  • Assets going to former spouses or being lost to pay the probate court.
  • Difficulties assigning guardianship of minor children to the right person after you pass away.
  • Hurt feelings among family members who may not have realized your plans.
  • Real estate going to your surviving parents rather than your spouse, or to distant relatives with no connection to you.

You Don’t Have to Do This on Your Own

Need more direct tips tailored to your family situation? Get in touch with our experienced estate planning team and we can discuss if you need help with an estate planning strategy.

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Wilmington Elder Law, Estate Planning & Asset Protection Attorney