As temperatures cool off and the leaves start to change color, many of us are starting to get excited for one of the most family-oriented holidays of the year: Thanksgiving.
This tradition is all about gratitude, warmth, nourishment, and counting blessings. For most, it’s also a rare occasion to gather with the extended family at large. Here, we’d like to suggest that you consider starting a new Thanksgiving tradition: talking about estate planning with your entire family.
When you’re getting ready to feast on some turkey and pie, estate planning is probably one of the last things to come to mind. That’s precisely why we want to press the issue. Thanksgiving is one of the best opportunities to discuss your family estate plan. Here’s why.
Why Talk About Estate Planning on Thanksgiving?
To be clear, it probably isn’t appropriate to ask Auntie whether or not she has a living Trust right as she’s about to help herself to some mashed potatoes. You should definitely give your family the space and time to feast and be merry before delving into any serious conversations.
Once everyone has had a chance to eat, relax, and recover from their food comas, gather everyone around to have an open and earnest conversation about estate planning.
Now, you might be wondering to yourself, “why on earth would I want to bring up something like estate planning during Thanksgiving?”
The reason why Thanksgiving is the perfect time to discuss estate planning is that it’s a rare opportunity to have an important, in-person conversation with your entire family.
Society has conditioned us to keep financial matters private, but data suggests that this is a losing strategy. More than 70 percent of families lose their wealth by the second generation, and 90 percent of it by the third. Nasdaq reports that this wealth loss occurs for three key reasons:
Families do not talk about money
Older generations worry that younger generations will develop bad habits
Many individuals lack the education and training on the value of money, or how to handle it
Families that are most successful in creating and maintaining their legacy over multiple generations are those that have open lines of communication and involve their family members in their decision-making. Having these important conversations also exposes younger generations on the value of money, how to manage it, and how to cultivate a healthy relationship with it.
Further, some critical conversations surrounding estate planning need to happen beyond just your immediate family. For example, adult children can work together to talk to their older parents about establishing an estate plan and making sure they will have proper care if they fall ill, or if one of them suddenly passes away.
Conversely, parents can have conversations with their children to make sure they understand the family estate plan and overarching strategic vision. Intentions can be made clear with other family members regarding guardianship for any minor or dependent children. Last but not least, grandparents and other extended relatives can make sure everyone in the family will be taken care of, and co-coordinate with other family members on their estate plans as well.
Further Reasons to Discuss Estate Planning with Family
Discussing estate planning collectively as a family provides a myriad of other positive byproducts:
Experience empowerment as a family; you’re taking collective control over the family legacy, rather than leaving things up to chance.
Create a culture where family values are discussed and passed on.
Cultivate a common strategy for how your family legacy will be passed on for as many generations as possible.
Start educating young family members on the value of estate planning and having open discussions from a young age.
Prepare one another for unexpected events, such as illness, incapacitation, death, or other emergencies.
Inspire other family members to establish a thorough estate plan.
Take advantage of tax strategies.
Conversations to Cover
Once you’ve resolved to bring up the discussion on estate planning at Thanksgiving, you’ll want to have an idea of what topics to cover. Many people assume that estate plans merely cover inheritances, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Here are several talking points to consider:
Medical: People often don’t realize that an estate plan can cover important bases during one’s own lifetime. Ask your family members about their medical preferences, and make sure that they’ve established healthcare directives and have selected Powers of Attorney in the event that they become incapacitated and can’t make their own decisions.
Roles: An estate plan comes with several roles, each of which can be filled by a family member if you so choose. Work with your family to select Executors, Guardians, and Powers of Attorney (medical, financial, etc.)
Insurance: Don’t allow your family to leave money on the table. Use this time to make sure everyone in the family already has obtained, or is in the process of obtaining, a life insurance policy. Further, make sure they have named their beneficiary.
Estate: It’s common for immediate households to discuss assets, but it’s likely rare for extended families to gather and discuss family estates as a whole. Siblings can come together and talk about the family estate with their aging parents about plans to divide up the estate, and how to continue supporting charities or organizations. This may feel like an awkward conversation at first, but it’s better to create transparency and hash things out now to prevent infighting and ugly court battles in the future.
Taxes: There are several estate and inheritance taxes, including generation-skipping taxes, that could affect the overall wealth of the family. A family discussion on estate planning taxes can also prove beneficial.
Tips & Etiquette
It might feel nerve-racking to bring up a heavy-hitter such as estate planning at Turkey Time. Don’t worry - Trust & Will has your back! Here are some tips and etiquette to ensure the conversation will go smoothly:
Wait for topics to come up organically, or use a conversation starter. Examples include a story that happened to a friend, or an article that you read.
Use your own estate planning journey or your financial planner as an excuse to share. This will pique your family members’ interests, and can naturally lead to an exchange of advice and ideas.
Offer help to encourage family members to start their own estate plans. Let them know that estate planning doesn’t have to be a tedious nor expensive process. Services such as Trust & Will can help you establish your estate plan in a way that is easy, quick and cost-effective.
Provide your family members with resources, such as articles and checklists. Trust & Will’s Learn Center offers plenty of educational materials for estate planners at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
Approach the conversation with empathy; some family members may feel uncomfortable broaching what they think is a sensitive topic. Plan ahead on how you will communicate the importance of having this conversation, and how you might encourage everyone to share their thoughts in a safe and inclusive way.
Make an agreement to revisit this estate planning conversation as a family again next year, and every Thanksgiving moving forward. It could even be fun to set homework assignments and goals as a family. That way, you can hold one another accountable and provide support.
Trust & Will can Support your Family Estate Plan!
Before heading into any critical conversation, it’s important that you’re modeling the way. In other words, make sure “you walk the walk before you talk the talk.” Sharing your own journey of estate planning can help inspire your family members to do the same!
Before you head home this Thanksgiving, make sure to leave yourself enough time to establish your own estate plan! At Trust & Will, we offer a myriad of estate planning products that can meet your individual needs. Simple, complex, modest, or extra — wherever you are at, we have something for you!
Get started with Trust & Will today. We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!