Planning one’s estate is one thing, but discussing it with family members is often something else. It can be awkward, depressing, and sometimes met with hostility by those who do not want to ponder the possibility of losing a loved one. It’s why many people do not plan their estate—they do not want to ruffle feathers. And often it’s the individuals themselves who do not want to face the fact of their mortality and that everyone dies eventually. These are unfortunate scenarios because when an estate plan is not in place, after a loved one’s passing there may be many questions, leaving loved ones to only wonder what the decedent’s final wishes may have been. It can also place the estate in jeopardy of having to undergo probate, a process that can be avoidable, but without a will or trust is often required. The resulting probate will cost the heirs time and money.
Family Discussions and Estate Planning
It’s a common scenario: neither the parents nor their adult children wish to discuss end-of-life and post-life preferences of the parents. Many choose to postpone these conversations until or unless a life-threatening health condition arises. But, sometimes this is too late. The important issues that need to be discussed may include any or all of the following:
- What the parents desire for their remains (whether it should be a burial or cremation or even where they should be laid to rest).
- Retirement finances: covering their cost of living, the ability to pay taxes, and who will inherit the retirement funds.
- Elderly care whether it’s at home partial or full-time care, retirement or nursing facility residency, etc. Alternately, should one or more children assume care for the elder should they be unable to care for themselves.
- Who will inherit which assets and in what percentage. For example, will the ownership of the family home be equally shared among the children, will all the children inherit equal amounts of cash funds?
Counseling as a Possible Solution
Everyone is different. People communicate in different ways and their emotional triggers vary from one person to the next. Difficult or awkward topics can often be bridged when the conversation participants use certain verbal and body language cues to help develop a safe environment. These tools can be taught by a trained and licensed counselor. It may also be helpful to hold conversations about estate planning and related issues in a counseling office because of its neutral setting. If the elders or the children do not wish to participate in the discussions in a counseling arrangement, one or both can still benefit from gaining insight from a therapist in how to lovingly approach these conversations with the other family members.
Reach Out for Help
If you would like to formalize your final wishes in order they will be legally binding, contact an estate planning lawyer. If you would like help in learning ways to approach family members to discuss estate planning issues, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist.