Letting your family know about your estate planning can be hard, but here are some tips to help you broach the subject with your family members.
Clients often ask if they should talk to their children about their will or powers of attorney, and sometimes the thought of these conversations causes anxiety. How do I bring up something like this in natural conversation? How much should I tell my family? It is important for a lawyer to listen to a client’s concerns, but also to help the client prepare the family upon his or her incapacity or death. The lawyer should encourage a client to inform his or her family about where to find important documents, who to talk to if something happens, and in some cases, financial details before a life event makes that discussion impossible.
A good way for a client to start a conversation of this nature with his or her family is to blame it on the lawyer – a client can use you as an excuse to raise the issue, saying you recommended a discussion. The conversation can be as simple as letting the family know about the estate plan made and providing a copy of the lawyer’s business card or letting the family know he or she has a file in your office with important information in it should they need it in future.
Depending on the family and the relationships, clients may even want to give their family a copy of the documents so that they are informed, know what to expect and are prepared. Once the discussion has occurred, the planning can put a client’s mind at ease.
Ultimately, each family situation is different and helping a client to discuss the plan with his or her family is something we as planners do not always consider. Communicating plans is an important part of the process and can often cause the client more stress and anxiety than actually making the decision to have the estate plan completed.
Lesson learned: Being an estate planner includes more than drafting documents; managing client anxiety is an important, sometimes forgotten, job we have as well.
By Jasmine Sweatman