How to Talk to Your Family About Your Estate Plan
A lot of families have a hard time talking about big topics – especially those involving finances like estate planning. However, it’s important that your family members understand what you have planned for the future, and what their roles are now and in the future.
Trusts are a useful tool for estate planning for many different reasons. Transferring your money to a trust can help to ensure that your wishes are carried out when it comes to the management or division of your assets. Using a trust to distribute your money also prevents your beneficiaries from having to go through the lengthy and often costly process of probate.
A trust can also allow you to determine who will manage your assets if you are unable to manage your finances during your lifetime. You’ll designate one or more trustees to assume the responsibility of managing your financial decisions if you become incapacitated. This will give you and your family members peace of mind that your wishes will be respected. Oftentimes a trustee may be a family member along with a corporate trustee like Piscataqua Savings Bank.
It’s clear that taking advantage of the benefits offered by a trust is a good option for many people. It is always helpful to talk to a trust officer to determine the best way to organize your trust and the roles that your trustee will play. Once you have established your trust, you should discuss it with your family members.
While this conversation may be challenging and uncomfortable, it is important that those close to you are familiar with the planning you’ve done. Your family will know what to expect at the end of your life and will be able to plan accordingly. They’ll have the opportunity to clarify with you anything they don’t understand and ask any questions they might have. Discussing your estate plan with your family members also allows them to feel confident knowing that they are carrying out your wishes when you die or become incapacitated.
But how to have that talk? It can help to use an event to initiate your conversation – for example, the death of an acquaintance or even a celebrity can serve as an opportunity to let your family know that you have a plan in place and invite them to discuss it with you.
Every family is different, and you’ll need to consider your unique relationships when you’re making your plan. For some, it might be easier to talk one-on-one, or perhaps you’ll be more comfortable talking to your family in a group. Many people find it advantageous to discuss matters as a group, to help make sure that everyone leaves the conversation with the same information – but do whatever makes you most comfortable.
In maneuvering difficult conversations, it’s always best to be direct and to-the-point. Explain to your loved ones that you’d like to talk about your estate plan so they can be informed and prepared in case anything happens. Discuss the details of your trust as it relates to their role, and be open to answering questions that might make you uncomfortable. Keep an open mind and try to understand the emotions behind your loved ones’ words.
However you choose to discuss your trust with your family, you can probably expect some awkwardness… but remember that you established your estate plan because you’re looking out for your family’s best interests, and let that sentiment guide the conversation.