Discussing Estate Planning Around the Holidays with Elderly Family Members

Tips for discussing estate planning with family at the holidaysThe holidays are always time to be with family and enjoy each other’s company.

Many of us travel great distances to see relatives whom we may only get to see once or twice a year.  We visit with our parents and grandparents and listen to stories of past holidays and re-live family traditions.  We catch up on what is happening in each other’s lives and it is also a time to discuss personal concerns, health concerns, and possibly, financial concerns.

You may find yourself having a conversation with a parent or grandparent about their estate planning.  Many times, they will bring it up.  But what if they don’t bring it up?  Is there an appropriate way to start the conversation? [pullquote_right] But what if they don’t bring it up?  Is there an appropriate way to start the conversation? [/pullquote_right] You certainly don’t want them to think that you are concerned about what you are inheriting (at least, you shouldn’t be).

Here are some tips on how to start the conversation:

1.         Have you recently been to see an estate planning attorney?  You could start the conversation by telling them about your experience and why you recently realized how important it was to have your estate planning in order.  For instance, you could explain to your family member that you have made the proper designations to appoint someone to handle your affairs in case you become incapacitated and cannot do so.

2.         Fighting among siblings is not uncommon when a parent passes away.  Explain to your family member that you are concerned about that and you hope that they have their documents in order so that everyone understand what they want to have happen in the event of death or incapacity.

3.         If you have other siblings, it might be a good idea to consider talking to them before talking to your parents or grandparents – maybe one of you is better at broaching the subject, or the family member is more likely to be receptive to one person over another.

4.         Be informed and be able to provide them with relevant information.  Having a Will is good planning (because you can appoint who you want to administer the estate and you can provide for whomever you want to inherit your estate), but if you want to avoid probate, a Will is not enough.  It might be a good idea to speak to an attorney about those issues.  Or, talk to them about why a durable power of attorney is so important (and if you are not sure why, look at my blog post from November, 2010 – Parents: Do you think you have a say-so over your 18 year old?).

Once you have broached the issue with your loved one, be prepared to steer them in the right direction on finding an attorney which suits them.  If your loved one is age 65 or older, not only do they need an attorney who handles estate planning issues, but they should also be speaking to an attorney that has experience with elder law issues (involving long term care and asset protection planning).  You may want to look for someone who is Board Certified in Elder law (and is, thus, an “expert” in their field and sensitive to the legal issues impacting senior citizens).  You can go to the Florida Bar website www.flabar.org and search for a board certified elder law attorney in your family member’s area.

If you are in need of elder law advice, please contact Florida Board Certified Elder Law Attorney, Laurie E. Ohall, today to get started.