Why Thanksgiving is the Perfect Time to Talk About Estate Planning
Most people say that Thanksgiving is the time to avoid talking about politics, religion, money, or any other hot button topic. And I know no one wants to talk about a future where they are not healthy or even here, and that estate planning is the last thing on your mind while are eating a delicious Thanksgiving dinner or while watching the parade or game. However, Thanksgiving is one of the best times to bring up estate planning, especially with those family members who always want to avoid talking about it.
Thanksgiving allows you to talk about how family members are doing, what the future looks like, and whether they need any help preparing for that future. With everyone gathered together, and in a food coma, that is a wonderful opportunity to start to have the conversation of how they can best protect themselves and their future.
So often estate planning is a topic that can be very stressful if you have a loved one who is unwilling to make a plan for their future, especially if that loved one has poor health. Trust me, I understand this. However if brought up and handled correctly, you can often begin these conversations subtly and in a way that helps both you, and your loved one.
How to Bring it Up
Bringing up estate planning, in any context, is not normally a natural transition, but it may seem even less so around your Thanksgiving table. However, if you pick your moment correctly, it can open a door to a fantastic conversation and opportunity. Find the time where you are relaxing, peaceful, and in a private place. The goal here is to not make anyone feel attacked, but to have it be a natural and caring transition.
In an ideal situation, your loved one will bring up the topic first. However, if your family is anything like mine, this is a topic that those who need it the most avoid the most. So it is up to us to find a way to bring up the situation.
One way to start approaching it is to ask where important papers are being kept, and whether they would be able to provide passwords to things in case they could not access them themselves. One thing to remember is to make sure that the focus is on them and their protection. Some family members can get paranoid that you are only asking because you want their money now.
Once you begin asking about these important things, it is often easier to start asking about their plan for the future if they even have one. So often people will just assume the plan they know they want, will magically unfold. But by asking the questions and beginning the conversation, you will gain valuable information as to how your loved one wants to be taken care of and what they value. It will also allow them to verbalize their wishes and find comfort in knowing that there is at least one other person who can help them and protect them.
What are important things you will need to know?
A common reason that people do not bring up the future with a loved one, is that they do not really understand what they will need to know or what information is going to be needed to help guide that loved one. So when you are considering starting or continuing the conversation about the future and about estate planning, here are some things you will want answers to:
If they have an estate plan:
- Do you have a Trust?
- Do you have a medical power of attorney?
- Do you have a financial power of attorney?
- Where are these documents kept?
If they do not have an estate plan:
- What are your wishes for medical decisions?
- Do you have an attorney who can put your wishes in writing?
- Are you ready to set up at least a medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney?
There are many other questions that may come up, but these will be some of the most crucial for you to know.
What to take away
The main thing to know when you begin discussing your loved one’s future or their estate plan is that this is rarely a one time conversation. However, by bringing it up in a relaxed and happy environment you can begin that conversation in a very productive and non-threatening way. We understand that having this discussion with loved ones can be stressful, and that a loved one’s lack of action can be frustrating. But do not forget, we are here to help guide you on how to have these conversations with loved ones, and to remind you that any forward progress towards them protecting themselves, their assets, and their family is a wonderful step.