In my years as a California estate planning attorney, it still surprises me to hear how uncomfortable people are discussing estate planning issues. Even families who are open to discussing their financial situations get squeamish when the word “inheritance” is brought up. However, like everything in life, the more you know the better.
Experience proves that families that openly discuss their estate plans lay the groundwork for better transitions when the time comes. Whether a person dies or becomes incapacitated, the amount of anguish is greatly diminished if a plan has been put in place and everyone knows where to go and what to do. No one wants to think about their loved ones fighting over assets or arguing about what medical procedures should be administered.
We generally recommend that our clients go to their children or other family members to discuss their wishes early on – well in advance of a serious injury or illness – so that everyone is on the same page. Discussing what happens when everyone is in good health makes it easier than waiting until a crisis.
If there are complex issues to discuss, we recommend that a formal family meeting take place. Your estate planning attorney can even help you facilitate the conversation. We know that there are times when it’s not possible to make everyone involved happy, but having tough conversations in advance will go a long way in saving relationships that may be destroyed by surprising or unpopular information delivered at your passing.
If you suspect that your parents do not have an estate plan, go ahead and get out of your comfort zone and ask them about it. If YOU are that parent that has yet to have the conversation with your children, I encourage you to do so today. Let them know your wants, needs, and desires. And, be sure to legally document them! Without an executed estate plan, your thoughts and wishes won’t matter. It will be up to the State of <inert state> to decide for you.
We hope this has helped if you needed a little push and a bit of courage to get started. If you would like my assistance in any area, feel free to call my office at 916.247.6868 to schedule a consultation.