Over the years I’ve had many people ask me how to approach the topics of wills, trusts, and difficult end of life decisions (medical, funeral, etc). Understandably it’s a topic normal people don’t sit around and discuss. Unless of course you’re an estate planning attorney. But I did say normal.
Either people don’t want to discuss the topic themselves or they feel intrusive and pushy bringing it up to loved ones. Even I have been in the uncomfortable position of being near someone I care about and worrying if they had properly protected themselves. So how do you start a discussion on estate planning with your parents or loved ones?
Well, if I had that answer, I might have already retired. But a few tips to begin the conversation and make it a bit easier:
Tell them about this great blog you read. Find a neutral topic to introduce the subject. Don’t just jump in with “you need a will.” Bring up an article or whatever has made you think about it in the past. Refer to your attorney friend or the recent celebrity who lost millions by the lack of planning. If they are open to the topic, then you can get more personal and really talk in detail. If they seem hesitant, don’t force the issues, but just mention it every once and a while without focusing on them.
Talk about yourself. So let me be clear. This is not about you. If you are talking about a plan for another, do not make it about yourself. However, people plan for their loved ones and so if you open up about your concerns, then you might get them to talk about their own concerns and plans.
Don’t focus on death. In my meetings, I rarely use the “D” word. There are a thousand ways to talk about it without using the word itself. Instead focus on love. The real concerns are either making sure wishes are followed or making sure the ones left can focus on the family.
Be honest. There is a reason you are reading this blog. You’ve either done your own planning or your thinking about someone’s plan. Chances are it’s not about you. You’re trying to make another’s life easier. Let that come through as you bring up the topic. Make it about the big picture concerns and why you’re trying to discuss it.
Truthfully, there’s just no magic conversation. However, with a bit of tact, compassion, and understanding there’s a way to bring it up and be respectful about a potentially uncomfortable subject. And don’t forget, I’m always a phone call or blog post away when those discussions lead to questions.