If your family is like many others in California, the winter holidays are often the only time you and your adult children are in the same room together. This makes it an ideal time to hold a family meeting to discuss estate planning.
Preparing for the conversation
Your adult children may not want to discuss estate plans and end-of-life issues during a festive season. However, communicating your objectives to everyone in the family is the best way to avoid conflict if you or your spouse die or become incapacitated.
Here are some preparation tips:
- Set a meeting time and place.
- Discuss end-of-life decisions with your physician and clergy.
- Review and update documents, such as wills, insurance policies, investment account beneficiary designations, and healthcare advance directives.
- Prepare a list of valuables and family heirlooms you wish to pass on to your heirs.
Things to discuss
Present your estate plan and allow your children to ask questions. Remember that your will is just one part of your estate plan. If you’ve set up trusts for your children, grandchildren, or charities, describe their terms, such as when funds can be distributed to beneficiaries. The same holds for life insurance policies and retirement accounts tied to your workplace.
Tell your kids what you want to happen if you become terminally ill or are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. Provide copies of living wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives. You should also let your family know who you have appointed as power of attorney or conservator should you become incapacitated.
If your home has sentimental value and one or more of your children might be interested in moving in after you die, discuss this at the meeting. Similarly, encourage your kids to speak up about any personal items they want. Designating what happens to personal property in your estate plan might prevent conflict between siblings after you die.
A frank and open discussion about your estate plans during the holidays is one way to ensure that all of your family members know what to expect when you die. This knowledge can help prevent conflict and ensure your children continue to have healthy relationships with each other even after you are gone.