Father’s Day is a wonderful opportunity for adult children to connect with their aging father in a way they might not have in a long time. While we don’t recommend springing questions like, “Do you have life insurance?” on Dad while you’re out together, you may want to take this Father’s Day to gently bring up that it would be a good idea for the family to talk about estate planning and his priorities and legacy. Set a day for him (or both your parents if possible) and your siblings to have dinner together.
Miscommunication. A common challenge faced by parents and their adult children is miscommunication around estate planning. These problems may stem from an inherent cultural taboo around discussing finances and death, but they seem to go beyond that. There is a generational disconnect. Nearly 70% of senior parents say they’ve discussed their will and estate plans with their children, while more than half of adult children say that isn’t the case. That means over 30% of adult children aren’t on the same page as their parents.
Make This Meeting All About Your Parents. Family dinner won’t be any fun if Dad feels like the underlying thesis to the conversation is, “When are you going to die and how much am I going to get?” Discussing your parents’ estate plan is simply not about you or your siblings, it’s about your parents. Keep the conversation focused on their wishes, their legacy, and how you want to ensure you understand their priorities. Talk with your siblings beforehand to make sure everyone understands the plan. Then get the conversation started. Remember, your parents didn’t become as successful as they are for no reason. Go forward assuming they already have a competent plan in place. Try:
“I know you’ve probably already discussed your estate plan with each other extensively, but it’s important that we all understand your priorities and your wishes. We want to support you, and we want to know what you’re thinking. We know that you wouldn’t want us arguing over your estate plan, and we don’t want that either. The best way to avoid that is for us to fully understand the plan you’ve laid out, so we aren’t left guessing.”
Keeping Communication Positive. Depending on your family dynamic, you may not need any help here. But when money and death are the conversations at hand, it’s not unusual for everyone to be a little extra tense. As your parents explain their wishes, steer towards “I” statements and away from “why” questions.
“So I understand that you’d like to leave the cabin to Leah because she still lives nearby and has the most interest in it.”
After affirming that you understand what they’ve said, it’s time to talk about your feelings.
“I really enjoyed my summers at the cabin as a child, so I am a bit disappointed that I won’t be able to share our family cottage with my children.”
“I haven’t used the cabin in years, so I think that’s a great choice.”
This estate meeting should be about listening to your parents and their wishes, affirming your understanding, and clearly communicating how you each feel about it. It’s not the place for debating changes. If your parents wish to change their estate after hearing your feelings, that will be up to them to discuss in their own time.
At MacMillan Estate Planning, our priority is understanding your priorities. We take all the necessary time to get to know our clients, your goals, and your unique family dynamic. If your parents need some help getting started with their personalized estate plan, our team can help. We offer complimentary consultations, so contact an advisor today at (403) 266-6464.