Creating your estate plan is an important step in preparing yourself, your family, and your finances for the future. Unfortunately, many of us find that conversations with our children about our planning are tense and emotional. Although it can be a difficult conversation to start, if you want to tell your children about your estate plan, do not put it off.
It is important that we make time for these important conversations while we are face-to-face. The holidays are a time when many families come together to celebrate. When our children live out-of-state or are very busy with their own lives, the holidays can be our only time together. Let us share our strategies for starting the conversation about your estate planning and help you anticipate your children’s questions.
BEFORE THE HOLIDAYS
Before you meet for the holidays, revisit your choices for your decision makers as well as their responsibilities. This can include your agent under your durable power of attorney or your trustee under your trust agreement. This way, you will know the specific topics you want to include in the conversation with your children. You will want to be able to tell your children the name of your estate planning attorney and you may want to bring copies of your documents to the meeting.
Your children will have questions. Plan ahead for them. List the questions you anticipate and choose your answers beforehand. For example, if you did not name your oldest child as your primary decision maker, why not? If your child who lives closest to you is not in charge of your health care decisions, what was your reason? When you choose to inform your children of your estate planning decisions, be sure to put them in the best position possible to understand your reasoning.
DURING THE CONVERSATION
During the conversation, take control. Tell your children your planning goals. Let them know the strategies you selected with your estate planning attorney to reach your goals. Listen to their questions, remembering that they may have planning of their own and that the laws can be different in other states. Know that this can be a very emotional topic. If your children become angry, sad or confused, help them remember the reason for the conversation but do not act defensive.
AFTER THE CONVERSATION
Once the conversation is over, be sure to communicate to your children that they may ask questions of you at any time. This way, your children can collect their thoughts and you can take their points into consideration. You may choose to revisit the conversation at a later time. It is not easy to discuss such serious topics. It is very necessary, however, as it will help ensure your wishes are followed after you are gone.
Do you plan to have this conversation with your children over the holidays? Is your Wisconsin estate plan up-to-date and ready for the discussion? You can always schedule a meeting with Attorney Alan Hougum to discuss your estate planning and make the revisions you need to reflect your wishes.