Creating an estate plan is an invaluable gift for your family as it will provide them with peace of mind during a very difficult time. Additionally, creating an estate plan offers you the opportunity to have meaningful conversations around your intentions, demonstrating to your loved ones how much you respect and appreciate them. These conversations can go awry, however, as they can bring powerful and unexpected emotions to the surface. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure that your conversations are productive and leave your loved ones feeling — well — loved.
Know that they don’t have to agree with your choices
Your conversation need not be consensus seeking. Your loved ones do not necessarily need to agree with your plans. You are the ultimate decision maker for your own estate.
But, they still deserve to be heard
While your loved ones may not get a vote, you can choose to provide them with a voice. Doing so will promote understanding and feelings of mutual respect. Shouting, “It’s my money and I’ll do whatever I want with it!” is certainly one approach, but explaining the reasoning behind your decisions and asking questions to try to engage your loved ones will ultimately yield a more harmonious discussion. Listening to your loved ones doesn’t mean you have to change your mind, it just shows that you are respecting their perspective.
Share any designations and make sure all parties are willing and able to take on the associated responsibilities
It’s also important that your loved ones understand and are willing to accept any role for which you have selected them. If you have named your sister and brother-in-law as guardians of your minor children, for example, you’ll likely want to sit down and discuss with them what that means to you, and understand what that means to them.
Additionally, if you have selected someone as your Medical Power of Attorney, it’s advisable to make sure they are aware of that designation, and that they are familiar with your wishes so that should the time come, they can feel confident in their decisions. The person selected as your Financial Power of Attorney should also be made aware of their designation, and at least be given a general overview of the assets that will be under their direction.
Let them down easy, if necessary
You may have loved ones who expected to play a significant role in your estate plan, who are not. You may want to sit down with them to specifically address their feelings around the subject, which we will discuss with greater consideration in a future blog post.
These conversations might not be easy, but proactively sharing your wishes with your loved ones may help them understand and respect your choices, and ultimately serve as an important gesture of goodwill.