Thanksgiving was just recently celebrated. Christmas and Hanukkah are close behind. The holidays offer great opportunities to get loved ones together for laughter, fellowship and conversation.

It might sound dull as a dinner conversation topic, but don’t be surprised if talk about estate plans ensues, particularly why certain decisions are made and how those decisions can save a family a lot of heartache and stress later.

With relatives sometimes living in different cities or states, it can be difficult to get everyone under one roof at other times of the year. Many loved ones can’t – or won’t – make the journey unless it’s to attend a big holiday gathering. Thanksgiving and the other winter holidays are the best opportunity to talk with everyone in one spot about estate planning.

Treat It Seriously

It would be beneficial to treat your time together like an official “family meeting” by informing everyone beforehand that estate planning topics will be discussed. Don’t say, “We’re going to talk about my impending death and what you’ll inherit and what you won’t.” That’s a little melodramatic, but you get the idea.

At the start, respectfully ask everyone in the room to turn off their cell phones and put away other connected devices (this includes smart watches, which can be very distracting). Get someone to babysit the little ones. Make sure that anyone who can’t physically be there is included via a conference call or video chat.

People might be reluctant to tell children and grandchildren what assets, if any, they’re going to receive as beneficiaries. But knowing what’s coming to them later, even if not in exact detail, can be important.

The conversation doesn’t have to be just about big-ticket items, like a house, an antique car, or an investment portfolio. You should consider asking family members if there are items they’d like to receive as keepsakes when the time comes. No item is too small to mention.

Sentiment and memories can really increase the value of an inexpensive belonging that you or loved ones never realized anyone cared about receiving. If more than one person wants a specific item, now is the time to figure out a solution so feelings aren’t hurt later.

Surprising Discoveries

Discussing estate plans at family gatherings can also offer deep insights into issues with loved ones that you might not have fully known about. These discoveries might mean updating plans that your clients previously thought were complete.

Adult children (and their spouses) may have personal and professional goals that will one day take them far away from their parents. For those that have children, if you learn during this conversation that your children don’t expect to be in close proximity, that may mean the need to name a different person to handle medical and financial decisions in the case of incapacitation.

If you own a business, then you likely have a passion for the business that was founded and want to leave that legacy in good hands when you retire or pass away. But what if your eldest child announces she doesn’t want to take over the family business? What if the youngest one does? What if nobody does? That could certainly mean that an update to the business succession plan is necessary.

Office Setting

For some folks, the idea of having a holiday discussion about estate plans and end-of-life issues just won’t work. Drama seems to ensue at the drop of a fork. Jealousies arise over who is Dad’s “favorite.” Tears well up at the very mention of Mom’s eventual passing.

If you decide it’s not possible to coordinate a family meeting over the holidays to discuss estate plans, realize there are other options.

In the past, our firm has hosted family meetings for clients, especially for business owners. This provides the clients a “safe space” to clarify their wishes and estate plans to loved ones, and helps put them all on the same page regarding what would, could and should happen.

While we can’t join clients at their upcoming holiday gatherings to act as a moderator for dinner table discussions, we can accommodate these families in a conference room or (sometimes) by visiting a client’s home.

If you’d like our help with facilitating a family meeting to go over your client’s estate plan, let us know. We’d be happy to help. Contact Gary to find out more detail – by phone @ 847.719.1300 or click here to contact via web form.

1 Comment
  1. Great read, I think this article highlights a variety of different ways to make the holidays more enjoyable.

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