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How to Talk About Estate Planning With Your Family: Five Tips You Can Use

An alarming number of American adults lack an estate plan. A recent survey published by Gallup found that more than half of people do not have a will or other key estate planning documents. One of the biggest barriers to effective estate planning is simply having the conversation. These types of things can be difficult to talk about—especially for families.

At the same time, estate planning is extremely important. You and your loved ones need to be fully prepared for whatever happens tomorrow. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, we want to ensure you are ready to have the conversation. In this article, our Charlotte estate planning lawyers offer five tips to help you start talking about estate planning with your family and close loved ones.

1. Start Early—Do Not Wait Until a Time of Crisis

As with most things in estate planning, a proactive approach is the right approach. The most important tip for talking about estate planning is also the most straightforward: Make sure you start the conversation early. It is a lot harder to have an open and productive conversation about your estate plan in an emergency situation. The sooner you start the dialogue, the most comfortable (and calm) everyone will be. If there are issues that need to be handled, then you will have plenty of time to work through them with your family members and loved ones.

2. Be Clear, Sincere, and Straightforward

Estate planning is hard to talk about because it involves two of the most sensitive topics: Death and money. With this in mind, it is important to put an emphasis on clarity and sincerity. That is not to say that every conversation has to be tense or extraordinarily serious. Still, it is crucial that you are able to get your intentions across in a calm, clear, and straightforward manner so that all of your family members leave a conversation on the same page. It can sometimes be easy for people to “hear what they want to hear.” A clear conversation can help reduce the risk of conflict or confusion in the future.

3. Stress the Importance and Benefits of an Open Conversation

One of the barriers to the estate planning conversation is that some people simply do not want to talk about it—especially when the future seems so far away. It is an understandable impulse, estate planning involves some sensitive and uncomfortable topics. Nonetheless, the conversation is important. If you are dealing with a family member who is reluctant to talk about the issue, stay calm and stress the importance and benefits of a dialogue. One strategy to start the conversation is to explain all of the things that can go wrong when a family does not talk about estate planning.

4. Be Willing to Answer Questions and Address Concerns

Not every estate planning conversation is easy. In some cases, a family member may have questions about a particular approach that you are taking. In other cases, a family member may even be upset by your plan. Disagreement can arise over many different issues—from how you are planning to divide up your property to your desires for end-of-life care.

The estate planning conversation is most productive with an open and honest discussion. You should be prepared to answer questions and address the concerns raised by your family members and other loved ones. Of course, that does not mean that you need to change your estate plan for their benefits. But you should listen to their issues.

5. Remember that the Conversation is an Ongoing

Finally, it is important to emphasize that estate planning is a life-long process. The estate planning strategy that works well for you and your family today may no longer be the best approach tomorrow. Life changes and your estate plan should regularly be reviewed and revised as needed. When major changes have been made, do not keep your family or loved ones in the dark. The conversation should always continue to ensure that everyone is on the same page. 

Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Charlotte, NC Estate Planning Attorney

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our North Carolina estate planning lawyers are skilled, devoted advocates for people and families. If you have any questions about creating an estate plan, we are more than ready to help you get started. Contact our firm now for a confidential consultation. Our estate planning lawyers provide services throughout the region, including in Charlotte, Monroe, Matthews, Wadesboro, Rockingham, Oakboro, Locust, and Pineville.