The Winter Holidays offer great opportunities to get loved ones together for laughter, fellowship and conversation. These family gatherings might give you the best opportunity to have a conversation with everyone in one spot, about your estate plan. With relatives often living in different cities or states, it can be difficult to get everyone under one roof at any other time of the year.
It might sound dull as a dinner conversation topic, but talking about your estate plan and why you’re making certain decisions, can save everyone a lot of stress and heartache later.
Start by setting aside time, between the festivities, to have a meeting with everyone. Take it seriously by respectfully asking everyone in the room to turn off their cell phones and put away other electronic distractions. Perhaps find someone that will babysit the little ones, and make sure that anyone who can’t physically be there is included via a conference call, or video chat.
You might be reluctant to tell children and grandchildren what assets, if any, they’re going to receive as beneficiaries. But knowing what’s being gifted to them later, even if not in exact detail, can be important. The conversation doesn’t have to be just about big-ticket items, like a house, an antique car, or an investment portfolio. You should consider asking your loved ones if there are specific items that they’d like to receive as keepsakes. If more than one person wants a specific item, now is the time to figure out a solution so feelings aren’t hurt later. No item is too small to mention. Sentiment and memories can increase the value of an inexpensive object that you never realized anyone cared about receiving.
Discussing estate plans at family gatherings can also offer insights into issues with loved ones that you might not have fully known about. These discoveries might mean updating plans that you previously thought were complete. You might learn that your children don’t expect to be in close proximity, due to a job or lifestyle change, and you may need to name a different person to handle your medical and financial decisions should you become incapacitated.
If you are a business owner, then you have a passion for the business you founded and want to leave that legacy in good hands when you retire or pass away. But what if your eldest child announces he/she doesn’t want to take over the family business, or that the youngest one does, or nobody does? That could certainly mean that an update to the business succession plan is necessary.
For some of you, the idea of having a holiday discussion about estate planning and end-of-life issues just won’t work. Drama seems to ensue at the drop of a fork, tears well up at the very mention of Mom’s eventual passing. If you decide that you won’t be able to coordinate a family meeting over the holidays to discuss your estate plans, realize there are other options.
In the past, our firm has hosted family meetings for clients, especially for business owners. This provides a “safe space” to clarify your wishes and estate plans to your loved ones, and helps put everyone all on the same page regarding what would, could, should, and will happen.
If you’d like our help with facilitating a family meeting to go over your estate plan, let us know. We’d be happy to help.