Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all of the aspects of our lives for which we are thankful. It is also a time when families gather under the same roof, which can be a rarity for New Jersey families with loved ones who live far away. Having the family together and in a frame of mind to focus on gratitude is a perfect opportunity to broach the subject of estate planning.
When planning for this discussion, it is important to avoid jumping right into the topic with no advance warning. For example, when the family is gathered around the Thanksgiving table, the time is not right to begin discussing estate plans. That said, it is perfectly appropriate for families to schedule a family meeting to discuss the issue in the days prior to or following the actual holiday.
The party who is planning the discussion should have a list of points to cover during this meeting. Some families are hesitant to get into the finer points of who will inherit what, but having a basic overview of the plan is helpful. This is also the time to talk about incapacitation planning, and to discuss who will be expected to fill the decision-making roles if that need should arise.
One way to make loved ones more comfortable with this discussion is to emphasize that estate planning is ultimately for them, not for the individual(s) making the plan. This is a great time to talk about how certain items may not hold significant monetary value, but can be very meaningful to individual family members. Ask each person present to think about the things that they would most like to have, and to put together a list so that those wishes can be included in an estate planning document.
For many New Jersey families, bringing up estate planning during the Thanksgiving holiday will not be as difficult as imagined. Often, loved ones are concerned, but do not want to bring up the subject for fear of upsetting the people they care most about. Bringing the matter into the full light of day can be a relief for all involved. Even when the topic is not received in a positive manner, that does not negate the need for the conversation to take place, nor the fact that the holidays present an opportunity to have the discussion with all parties present.
Source: thestreet.com, “Estate Planning Over Thanksgiving? Time to Talk Turkey“, Jason Notte, Nov. 9, 2015