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Discussing the Future with your Loved Ones

Sandra’s Story

Sandra’s mother passed away after a sudden and brief battle with cancer in early December.  Several weeks after the funeral, Sandra’s cousin asked hesitantly about how she was coping with the loss of her only parent.  Sandra’s response was candid, “I wish we had talked more about what she wanted.  Her affairs just weren’t in order…  As uncomfortable as it was to discuss then, nothing is worse than sorting through it all now that she’s gone.”

Sandra’s story serves to remind us that when it comes to discussing the future with our loved ones, addressing the difficult questions and being proactive in estate planning will bring comfort in difficult times.

Difficult Discussions

Estate planning can be a very private and personal matter and as a result, many family members are not made aware of the personal wishes of their loved ones until it is too late to plan.  Often times, grandparents and parents are averse to discussing such issues which leaves children and grandchildren unaware of pertinent details.

As Sandra’s story demonstrates, it is essential to set aside some time to have a significant discussion with your loved ones and to have them clearly outline their wishes for the future. 

A good way to begin the discussion is to ask for advice on the future of your own estate which could naturally lead to a dialog about their own plans.  Initial questions should focus on understanding their overall wishes and how you can help rather than focus on financial issues or on what beneficiaries should receive.

One approach is to open the conversation with a story about the death of a celebrity and the ensuing confusion that occurred when the details of his or her estate had not been arranged.  Alternatively, a story about how a friend has created his or her own estate plan can offer a smooth transition into your own thoughts and questions about the future.

Continue to ask for feedback throughout the discussion – ask your family member how they feel about what you have asked or explained.  Asking for feedback will reinforce their autonomy and help to ease the tension often created by difficult subject matter.

Some Things to Consider:

Estate Planning works best when the individuals involved know what to expect and decisions with regard to medical treatment and financial affairs are explained clearly to them.

Find out what legal documents are already in place, and if they have they been used.    

Identify any Care Planning decisions that might generate disputes later and address them proactively.

Consult a lawyer about having legal documents updated, or to have the decisions documented to prevent later disputes.

Be proactive in preparing for the future: ensure that wishes have been communicated clearly to all those involved and that legal documentation is properly in place.

While it may be difficult to sit down with your loved ones and discuss the future, as Sandra’s story demonstrates, it is usually the right thing to do and will relieve some of the distress in difficult times.

Find out how we at Fingeret Law can help you, please call us at 412.281.8222 or contact us online

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