Critter Corner: How to Broach the Topic of Estate Planning During the Holidays

Dear Rune,

We are hosting Christmas dinner this year and the entire family will be there. While we are all in one place, I was thinking it would be a good time to talk about estate planning and incapacity planning. What is the best way to broach the topic without causing family strife?

Thanks!

Taka Bouttit

Dear Taka,

As families gather for the holidays, talking about estate planning and incapacity planning may not be top of mind, but I agree that while you have everyone there, it would be an ideal time. There are ways to make talk about incapacity, death, and finances more comfortable. Hopefully my tips will help!

Approach the topic with respect and care

When initiating a conversation about estate planning and incapacity planning, it’s important to be considerate. Financial discussions can sometimes make people uncomfortable, confused, or concerned, so try not to catch anyone off guard. For instance, if you are a parent who is broaching the topic with adult children for the first time, you can say something like, “It’s important that we talk as a family about the future. We want to make sure everything is in order if a time comes when we are no longer able to care for ourselves. We want to speak openly about the wishes we hope to convey in our documents, and we feel like it’s an ideal time for us to share our hopes and expectations with you.”

If you are an adult child broaching the subject with parents, you can start the discussion along these lines: “Mom and dad, your health and happiness are important to us. We want to make sure there are resources in place to support you in the years ahead. Let’s work together to avoid getting caught up in a scenario where we need to help you navigate medical issues but aren’t able to work on your behalf.”

Remind Your Family That You Love Them

Discussing estate planning is a way to build family ties and show respect for your loved one’s choices regarding their assets and health. Understanding everyone’s needs and goals clarifies how to proceed and prevents potential conflict. It may be a difficult conversation, but it will strengthen your family long-term. Remind your family about these things.

It’s worth the minimal investment of time to start the conversation. The result is being able to enjoy the immense peace of mind that comes with having a plan in place. Remember, planning in advance before either death or disability is one of the best gifta you can give your family.

Conversation Resources

Once you start the conversation, North Dakota State University has a helpful resource with talking points and questions you can ask loved ones, as does AARP.

Hope this helps!

Rune

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