Thanksgiving will be here any second. Christmas and Hanukkah are right around the corner. The holidays offer our clients at least a couple major opportunities to get loved ones together for laughter, fellowship and plenty of conversation. 

Why not save everyone from another argument between siblings over who should get the last of the dumplings? It might sound uncomfortable, or perhaps even a little droll as a dinner conversation topic, but having clients talk about their estate plan and why they're making certain decisions can save the family a lot of heartache and stress later. shared in a recent article several reasons why families should consider having this discussion when they gather for turkey dinner. It's worth a read.

We all know that with relatives sometimes living in different cities or states, it can be really 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 or the other winter holidays can be clients best opportunity to talk about estate planning issues with everyone in one spot.

Treat It Seriously

It is important clients treat this like an official "family meeting" by first informing everyone beforehand that estate planning topics will be discussed. Don't make this a surprise ambush of: "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 of the meeting, ask everyone in the room to respectfully turn off cell phones and put away other smart devices (this includes smartwatches, which can be very distracting). Get someone to babysit the little ones. Make sure anyone that's absent is included via a conference call or video chat.

Clients may 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. Clients 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 a client never realized anyone cared about receiving. Dad's pocket knife. Mom's hand-knit scarves. Grandma's mixing bowls. All of these can have enormous emotional value. If more than one person wants a particular item, now is the time to figure out a solution so feelings aren't hurt later.

Surprising Discoveries

Discussing estate plans at family holiday gatherings can also offer clients insights into issues with their loved ones that they might not have fully known about. These discoveries might mean updating plans that you 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. If clients learn during this conversation that their children don't expect to be in close proximity, that may mean you need to name a different person to handle their medical and financial decisions should they become incapacitated. 

If clients are business owners, then they have a passion for the business they founded and want to leave that legacy in good hands when they retire or pass away. But what if their 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 an update to the business succession plan is necessary.

To learn more about common estate planning issues, check out our free guide, Estate Planning Pitfalls: The 12 Most Common Threats to Your Estate & Your Family's Future, or to discuss your estate planning concerns, please call our office at 919-443-3035 or use our contact form.

Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning
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