Every family has at least one family member who makes everyone at the Thanksgiving table roll their eyes and groan when they begin to speak. One way to ensure that you will be that person is to stand up and declare – after the turkey has been carved and served – that family gatherings during the holidays should include a discussion about estate planning. You won't win any popularity contests at the start of this new tradition, but in years to come, we are confident that your family will see that you were wise to raise the topic, to make it a regular discussion, and to make your wishes and plans clear. And because you will be able to see how family members respond, you will know which of your children will likely be a responsible executor, and which one will not be able to handle the complex and often challenging tasks that come with being an executor of a family estate.
The American family has changed in many ways. Children live in distant cities, grandchildren get to know their grandparents via Skype visits and half the people at your table are (pick one) gluten free, vegan, vegetarian or dairy free. But regardless of the changes, when you all do sit down to a holiday meal, according to thestreet.com's "Estate Planning Over Thanksgiving? Time to Talk Turkey," this is a perfect time to start talking about important family matters, including estate planning.
If families or cultures are averse to raising such topics around the holidays, there should be an annual meeting to let family members know where an estate plan stands.
When combing through assets, remember that no item is too small for discussion, especially during the holidays. It is a natural time for emotions to run high, but it is a great time to discuss items of seemingly insignificant value that may take on added significance for each potential heir.
These discussions are going to make some people uncomfortable. But even though you can't compel family members to participate against their will, you can learn valuable information about those family members through their reactions. For example, if a family member skips these meetings because of the emotional toll, he or she likely isn't the right person to take on power of attorney or to serve as executor of the will. In fact, the first meeting might be a great time to address that discomfort and consider bringing in an estate planning attorney to make recommendations. Some estate planning attorney may be willing to serve in such roles.
Although there isn't really a consensus on whether the holidays are the best time to set an estate plan in motion, it is an opportunity to address concerns and answer questions about the future. As the family grows and changes, these meetings can help with discussions and answer questions like why the parents want a child's name added to their bank account to help ward off fraud, the elements of one's life and finances that should be discussed if they become incapacitated, as well as the provisions being made for your family's future.
Consult a qualified estate planning attorney to help guide you and your family through the process.
Reference: thestreet.com (November 9, 2015) "Estate Planning Over Thanksgiving? Time to Talk Turkey"