The holidays are a wonderful time and for some families, it may be the only time everyone is together.

Having multiple generations together can make the holidays an ideal time to have some estate planning discussions.

Estate Planning template

Estate Planning Photo source: Julianne Shoup

Too often, family members are hesitant to talk about estate planning and they never form a plan.  There’s no one way to start this conversation, but one way to bring it up is to refer to materials you have read recently or another family you may know who is going through the estate planning process.

 

Bringing Up Estate Planning

You could say, “Do you know so and so, their parents passed away recently and they have had so many problems because they didn’t have a plan in place.  I think we should sit down and talk about some of those things so that doesn’t happen to our family.”  Or, “I was reading an article about estate planning the other day and how important it is to talk about it with your family and create a plan. I think I’d like to sit down and talk with you all while you’re here for the holidays.”

 

Tips for Smooth Conversations

If you choose to start these conversations, remember estate planning can be a sensitive topic for all generations involved.  Below are some tips on communicating and dealing with conflict from the University of Minnesota Extension.

  • Remember to be a good listener, listening for meanings and feelings behind words.

  • Respect the views of others. Even if you can’t agree, you can still show sensitivity and respect for each other’s feelings.

  • Try to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements to convey feelings. It’s important to express feelings, but try to do so in a way that does not place blame.

  • If conflict arises, try to discuss and clarify the problem and make a commitment to work toward a solution.

  • Remember to focus on why you are having conversations about estate planning. Having a plan helps prevent conflict down the road, helps create a smoother transition to the next generation, and will help give you peace of mind.

Passing On Personal Belongings

One aspect of estate planning that can be overlooked is passing on family heirlooms.  Grandparents can often be surprised by what has meaning for their children or grandchildren if they have never talked about it. The holidays can be a great time to have discussions with family members about what items are special to them, if there are family stories behind items, and how certain items can be distributed either before or after the death of a family member.

Many times grandparents may choose to pass items on while they can still enjoy giving those items to the next generation.  Another method is to create a list of items and use a personal property memorandum attached to your will.  There are many ways to deal with personal property and each way has advantages and disadvantages, but establishing what your goals are and getting the process started are key.

For more information….

For more information on transferring heirlooms, the University of Minnesota has resources online and a workbook available to order to help you through the process: https://extension.umn.edu/transferring-property/transferring-non-titled-property

Or you can watch this K-State Research and Extension Ed Talk.