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How to Speak With Mom and Dad About Estate Planning

August 23, 2023
Andrew Sigerson
Estate planning is an activity many families, especially in lower-income communities, don't often use, despite its many benefits. Two-thirds of Americans don't have a will, according to the 2022 Caring.com survey.

The estate planning process typically includes making a list of your assets and debts, determining the beneficiaries of your property, and establishing a power of attorney (a person who can act on your behalf to handle your finances, healthcare, or other needs, if you become incapacitated).

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s recent article, “Five tips for having a conversation with your loved one about estate planning,” gives us some ideas to make the conversation easier.

  1. Learn the laws. Know your state's probate laws when you talk to family members about estate planning. Some states’ laws say that if a family member dies intestate (without a will), their assets — if they have any — go directly to their children. However, this can present issues if there are no children or multiple children and no one, such as a trustee or executor, to carry out the dead loved one's wishes.
  2. Start early. The earlier these discussions happen, the better. In many cases, people wait until they’re already sick and having problems before they even begin to think about estate planning. Involve loved ones early, so they feel invested in seeing it through and that planning will help ensure that their death does not burden the ones they love.
  3. Keep discussions empathetic and brief. Family visits or holiday gatherings are good times to discuss estate planning. It's important to remind relatives that planning protects their wishes. Ask open-ended questions, such as, "Let’s talk about your legacy or how you would like to give back to your family or your community."
  4. Remind your loved one they're in control — and estate planning helps them stay that way. Leaving your loved one out of the planning process can result in their wishes being misinterpreted or not represented.

Note that the person creating the will should consult an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (April 25, 2023) “Five tips for having a conversation with your loved one about estate planning”

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