July is National Family Reunion Month and the perfect time to reconnect with family from near and far, share life’s updates, and reminisce about the wonderful memories you share together. If you’re getting together with family this month, it’s also a perfect time to talk to your loved ones about your shared goals, family resources and the legacy you want to leave behind for the next generation.
You might think that estate planning is too somber a topic for a happy family reunion, but it can actually be an opportunity to bring you closer to your loved ones by giving everyone time to speak openly about their wishes for the family and can help everyone feel unified by working together toward the family’s future wellbeing.
Not sure how to bring up estate planning in a way that makes your family feel empowered? Keep reading to learn how to navigate the conversation without scaring away party guests!
Invite Your Loved Ones to the Conversation in Advance
No one wants to be that party guest who won’t stop talking about a sad news story or their personal troubles. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to share the good and the bad with our loved ones but pushing a mellow topic at a happy occasion is sure to dampen the mood and turn off the other guests.
Instead of bringing up the topic on the spot at your reunion, reach out to your relatives in advance and let them know that you’d like to set aside some time during the reunion to talk about your family’s legacy and how you can work together to take care of each other in the future.
Everyone likes to feel they’re being looked after and that their input in family matters is wanted and valued. Any ongoing concerns with your family, such as an aging relative’s declining memory or your upcoming knee surgery, are great lead-ins to bring up the topic in a way that feels natural.
If anyone is resistant to the idea of talking about estate planning, don’t push them. Instead, keep your energy warm and empathetic, and keep the invitation to the discussion open in case they change their mind.
Be Vulnerable and Explain Why Estate Planning is Important to You
Assure everyone that the goal of the conversation is to make sure the family’s future security and well-being are taken care of no matter what happens – not to try and pry into anyone’s finances, health, or relationships. Instead, it’s about ensuring everyone’s wishes are clearly understood and respected, and not about finding out how much money someone stands to inherit.
Be sure to tell your family that talking about these issues now is also a good way to avoid future conflict and expense. When family members don’t clearly understand the reasoning behind one another’s planning choices, it’s likely to breed conflict, resentment, and even costly legal battles in the future.
Instead, tell your loved ones that you’d like to start the conversation about estate planning early and continue it as an open dialogue with the whole family for years to come. Positioning the conversation as one about planning for the future health and well-being of your family rather than as a conversation about dividing assets at someone’s death will help your relatives will feel more at ease, and some may even be eager to be involved in the conversation.
If you have not yet handled your own planning, now would be a great time to start so you can have the conversation with your loved one’s by sharing about your personal experience and how handling your own estate planning has helped you to think more deeply about what matters to you, how you want to live out the rest of your life, and how you’d love to share this experience with your whole family.
Set a Time and Place for the Conversation
Rather than trying to find the right moment to bring up the topic, set a time and a place with your family in advance of the get-together. Be sure to schedule a specific time, but don’t feel like the meeting invite needs to sound too serious or foreboding. Asking if everyone can meet around the fire pit at 6:00 pm or meet at your house for coffee at 9:00 am is perfect.
I also recommend giving everyone an end time for the discussion as well. By doing this, your loved ones will know what to expect and won’t feel worried that the conversation will eat up too much of their time.
Setting boundaries for the conversation will also help motivate members of your family to participate and stay on topic.
To make things even easier, come to the meeting with a list of the most important points you’d like to cover and encourage your family members to do the same. But keep the list short so you don’t go over the time you’ve set aside for the discussion.
If there are too many things to cover in the time allotted, that’s okay. Talk about the most important topics and agree as a family to get together again on a specific date either in person, on the phone, or via video chat to continue the discussion and flesh out any details that were left for later.
Focus on Your Family’s Legacy
While talking to your loved ones about estate planning, remember to talk about your family’s legacy and your desire to pass on your cumulative stories, memories, values, and lessons to the younger generation and beyond. A family reunion is a wonderful way to come together, and estate planning can be an amazing tool for memorializing your family’s most important assets- your human assets.
You and your loved ones have generations of stories, traditions, and triumphs worth protecting and celebrating. Let your family know that estate planning isn’t just about planning for death – it’s also about planning ahead so you can enjoy your life to the fullest knowing that everything and everyone you love will be taken care of if you become ill or when you die.
For my clients, it’s also a unique opportunity to capture your family’s most valued memories and stories through a process I call the Life & Legacy Interview. During the Interview, I help my clients record the things that mean the most to them and the things they want to pass on that are far more valuable than money.
What would be more precious than being able to share and watch this recording of our loved ones at future family reunions for generations to come?
If you would like more advice on how to talk to your family about estate planning or are interested beginning your own estate planning journey so you can ensure your family is taken care of and share your personal planning experience with your family, give me a call.
As your trusted family lawyer, it’s my passion to guide you through every stage of planning your life and legacy, and when there’s an opportunity for an entire family to come together on their estate planning goals, love and happiness are bound to follow.
This article is a service of Legacy Counsel PLC, a trusts and estates law firm in Saint Joseph, Michigan. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure that you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session. Or you can schedule your appointment online here. Mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.