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The holidays provide a wonderful opportunity for many families to be together in one place. This is usually a joyful time, but can also be a beneficial 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 sensitive estate planning topics. Having discussions during this time could also help to prevent potential misunderstandings or disputes in the future. It also allows for the involvement of various generations in the planning process. Lastly, addressing estate planning during the holidays can enhance communication by identifying and addressing any financial or legal issues early on in the process.

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 make a checklist of what you would like to cover during the discussion, as well as any documentation you want for 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. 
  • 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 Every Adult Member Of The Family: 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 aspects 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 personal representative of the will or health care proxy), how assets are to be distributed, and any specific wishes you may have.
  • Address Concerns and Questions: The discussion that you are about to have might involve complex legal concepts or sensitive family dynamics. Be prepared to answer questions and address concerns. 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: You might want to suggest the possibility of consulting with an estate planning attorney for guidance if there are unresolved issues or if the conversation gets too complex. 
  • 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 that what works for one family might not be beneficial for the dynamics of another family. 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 personal representative/trustee named in these documents, and any other matters that need to be discussed. Verras Law, P.A. has experienced Florida estate planning attorneys who can help you with your varied estate planning needs.