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estate planning conversations

Conversations around estate planning—what to expect

Updated August 14, 2017

Did you know that 10% of Americans don’t have wills because they don’t want to think about death, or because it’s just too much of a somber topic to bring up with the family? Well, we’ve got good news. Writing a will is a lot easier than you think—and the benefits are huge. Plus, the conversation doesn’t have to be that bad.

To start the conversation around estate planning, it’s important to make sure that everyone involved knows your intentions.

Here are eight tips you can do to have a calm, productive conversation around estate planning:

1. Learn what kind of estate planning you need

Do you need a living trust or a last will and testament? An estate plan is made up of a handful of vital documents, each with a unique purpose.

2. Make your will (and everything you need)

Wills are about more than just things! They can save your family money, heartache, and much-needed energy during a difficult time; while making sure your wishes are respected.

3. Choose a comfortable environment

For a lot of people, the matter at hand isn’t easy to talk about, so gather everyone involved in a relaxed setting. Set up your intentions in advance and encourage everyone to be prepared for an open conversation.

4. Be clear

You are initiating these talks out of concern that proper plans are in place and are understood by all. This also means discussing the responsibilities of everyone involved; for example, you could be considering if someone would be comfortable being a trustee or making certain decisions after your death.

5. Define who gets what

Charles W. Collier, the author of “Wealth in Families” (Harvard University, 2001), encourages parents “to tell their children the principles that have guided their decision”. This will help avoid some issues in the future. Even if you determine that your property doesn’t have much monetary value, the sentimental attachment to personal belongings alone can prompt people to create a will.

6. Choose how your money will be spent

You can decide to leave your estate partially or wholly to a charity of your choice; discuss that with your loved ones and if you have any bequests, they should be part of your will too.

7. Emphasize the benefits of this talk, not just the dark side

Explain the tax benefits for the family. Consider using examples of mishandled estates and how having this conversation early will make things easier for all of the involved parties. (check out great examples here and here). This conversation allows you to empower each other and taking control of the future.

8. Cover all the bases

It’s not just about the assets. With this type of dialogue, family members have the chance to discuss values and traditions that are important to them. For example, if you want to become an organ donor or donate your body to medicine, even your funeral arrangements or if you want to be cremated or buried, it’s necessary to discuss your wishes with your family.

This talk can help your family develop a shared understanding and philosophy of how you and your family’s legacy will be carried out through generations. If you are still unsure what documents you might need you can always ask a lawyer

Have more tips? Let us know in the comments!

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