Why The Holidays Could Be A Good Time To Discuss Estate Planning

The holidays provide a rare chance for many families to be together in one place. This can be an ideal time to discuss estate planning, as it often involves decisions that affect the entire family.  The holidays can also signify a gathering in a supportive environment, which also presents a unique opportunity when it comes to estate planning. Engaging in a conversation during this time ensures that family members are aware of one’s wishes, helping to prevent potential misunderstandings or disputes in the future. It also allows for the involvement of various generations in the planning process, fostering a sense of shared responsibility. Addressing estate planning during the holidays can also help your communication by identifying and addressing any financial or legal issues early on, thereby safeguarding the family’s future stability and decreasing the chances of tensions in the family.

The holiday season, however, is both joyful and sensitive. Therefore, it is crucial to choose the right time for such discussions, ensuring that the mood is appropriate and that all key family members are present and willing to engage in the conversation. Lastly, it is important to be emotionally prepared for these discussions. Estate planning can bring up sensitive topics, including mortality and legacy, which can be emotionally charged. While initial discussions can happen during the holidays, detailed planning often requires follow-up meetings. Setting a plan for further discussions can be a productive outcome of holiday conversations.

Tips To Help Ensure That These Types of Conversations Go Well

  • Choose the Right Time and Setting: It is important to choose a time when all key family members are present and can participate in the discussion without distractions. A quiet, private setting is preferable, away from the festive holiday activities.
  • Prepare Ahead of Time: Before initiating the conversation, make sure you have a clear understanding of the estate planning details. This might include discussing the need for wills, trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, and any financial plans. Having documentation or a checklist can be helpful.
  • Be Clear About Your Intentions: Start the conversation by clearly expressing your intentions. Emphasize the importance of estate planning for the well-being and security of the entire family.
  • Involve Everyone: Encourage each family member to express their views and concerns. It is important to actively listen and validate their feelings. This is not just about a discussion of the necessary legal documents – it is also about people’s emotions and relationships.
  • Discuss Key Elements: Go over the main elements of your estate plan if it is in place already, or what your intentions are if you plan to initiate estate planning discussions with an attorney. Explain who is appointed to make decisions (like the executor of the will or health care proxy), how assets are to be distributed, and any specific wishes you may have.
  • Address Concerns and Questions: Be prepared to answer questions and address concerns. This might involve complex legal concepts or sensitive family dynamics. If you are at all unsure of an answer, maybe exploring it together will help maintain, or even enhance, the relationship.
  • Seek Professional Advice if Needed: If there are unresolved issues or if the conversation gets too complex, suggest the possibility of consulting with an estate planning attorney for guidance.
  • Set a Time To Follow Up On The Conversation: After the initial conversation, make plans for a follow-up discussion. This could involve meeting with professionals, updating documents, or having further discussions as a family.
  • Keep the Atmosphere Positive: Make sure you keep the conversation as positive and constructive as possible. Reiterate that the goal is to ensure open communication, peace of mind, and security for everyone.
  • Respect Boundaries: Be mindful of the comfort levels of different members of the family and respect their boundaries. If someone is not ready to discuss certain aspects of the estate plan, give them some time. 

Remember, every family is different, and what works for one may not work for another. It is about finding the right balance and approach that suits the dynamics of the particular situation. The goal of this conversation is to foster understanding and unity within the family regarding future plans. It is an ongoing process and should be approached with care and sensitivity. Once you feel comfortable with how you intend to proceed, it is important to find an experienced estate planning attorney who will be able to explain the advantages of the different documents, the roles and responsibilities of the executor/trustee named in these documents, and any other matters that need to be discussed. Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace has experienced estate planning attorneys who can help you with your varied estate planning needs. Contact our firm for an initial consultation.