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The Holidays And Estate Planning

As you prepare to gather and celebrate with your loved ones this holiday season, it is important to consider having conversations with aging parents about their estate plans.

Similar to politics and religion, many people consider topics related to death and money among those to avoid discussing at family gatherings. However, these topics, in the context of estate planning, are crucial to discuss with aging parents and siblings. Holiday gatherings may be one of the few occasions where everyone who needs to be involved in such a conversation is in the same room, even though these conversations about estate planning are rarely easy.

3 Tips To Make A Holiday Estate Planning Conversation Easier

•1. Start With The Basics - Do your aging parents have a will? What about other important estate planning documents like a living will or a durable financial power of attorney? Preparing a list of estate planning documents and then taking stock of those your parents have or need is a good place to start and can help guide these estate planning conversations.

•2. Be Sensitive - No one wants to contemplate the decline of their own physical or mental health or very mortality. Additionally, when thinking about your own parents, these types of topics are even more difficult to discuss. It is important to set the tone and approach conversations about long-term care planning and end-of-life decision-making from a place of concern and love. Being sensitive to everyone's feelings and openly acknowledging that these topics and conversations are difficult to have can go a long way to helping everyone speak more openly and freely.

•3. This Is Just One Conversation - Estate planning is an ongoing process so your conversations about it should also be ongoing. You and your family should not, therefore, attempt to hash out and finalize decisions related to weighty topics like long-term care needs, health care directives and inheritance matters all at once.

A recent national study revealed that only 56 percent of U.S. parents have a will and only 40 percent of these individuals have updated a will within the last five years. Additionally, 58 percent of adult children are uninformed about the contents of a parent's will. In general, when it comes to matters related to estate planning, many families simply are not prepared or are not communicating about it.

Sadly, the consequences of failing to take steps to both establish a comprehensive estate plan and inform loved ones about its contents can have serious financial and personal implications. This holiday season, open the lines of communication and give your family the gifts of communication, clarity and peace-of-mind.

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