Discussing your estate plan with your family over the holidays can be a sensitive decision. However, we find that holiday gatherings are a great opportunity to discuss your estate planning, which you will not want to miss!
Timing and Environment
The holidays can provide a rare opportunity for family members to gather, making it a potentially suitable time for such discussions. However, it is important to consider the emotional atmosphere of holiday gatherings. If your family typically enjoys a relaxed and open environment during the holidays, this might be a good time. If, however, holidays are already a source of stress or conflict, adding a discussion about estate planning might not be ideal. Preparing a holiday meal and hosting can be very stressful. If the holidays are already a stressful time for the family, consider discussing these topics later in the day after the family has enjoyed eating and gathering and is now relaxing.
Before initiating the conversation, consider preparing key points you want to discuss. The best thing you can do is give everyone notice in advance that you would like to talk about estate planning at your holiday party. This will avoid anyone being caught off guard and will also give them the chance, in advance, to think about topics they may want to bring up during the discussion. You will want to discuss topics individually, and not just as a whole, which will help your family be able to understand your key points and will likely help with information overload, which can add unnecessary stress. Key points might include the basics of your estate plan, your reasoning behind certain decisions, and any expectations or responsibilities family members may have. Depending on the complexity of your estate plan and family dynamics, it might be beneficial to have a preliminary discussion with an estate planning attorney. They can guide how to approach the conversation and what information to include.
Transparency and Emotions
Discussing your estate plan can help clarify your intentions, reduce potential misunderstandings, and allow family members to ask questions. This can be particularly important in families with complex dynamics or significant assets. Estate planning inherently involves discussing mortality and can evoke strong emotions. Be mindful of the emotional state and sensitivity of your family members, especially during a time that is often emotionally charged. It is important to remember when going into the estate planning conversation that not every issue can be resolved overnight. You will likely need to have multiple conversations to solve more complicated matters in your family, especially if family members have strong opinions on specific matters. Be prepared for a range of reactions and be flexible in how you handle them. It might be necessary to have follow-up conversations in a more private or individual setting.
Privacy and Boundaries
Some aspects of your estate plan may not be appropriate to discuss in a group setting, or around young children, or you may prefer to keep certain details private. Respect your own boundaries and those of your family members. As mentioned, this is not the only time your estate planning should be discussed. Not all questions and concerns will be addressed over this period of time. It may be best to save the more in-depth topics for another time. People will not want to spend the entire time discussing estate planning and you will want to ensure there is room for catching up with your family members on what is going on in their lives.
Estate planning can be a difficult topic to discuss regardless of the occasion. Ultimately, whether or not to discuss your estate plan over the holidays is a personal decision, dependent on your family dynamics, the complexity of your estate, and your comfort level with the subject. The key is to approach the conversation with sensitivity, clarity, and preparedness. If you would like to discuss your estate plan, contact our team at Legacy Counsellors today. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 413-527-0517.