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Tips for talking to your parents about their estate plan

If you are like many people, you will see your parents and other relatives over the holidays, whether you visit them in a nursing home or invite them over for a family meal. While you may be focused on celebrating and catching up, however, you might also consider taking the opportunity to discuss an important topic: estate planning.

This can be an uncomfortable subject and one you'd rather not discuss during holidays, but for many people, this is the only time of year when they see loved ones. If this sounds like your situation, consider the following tips for talking about estate planning with your family.

Make it a conversation, not a lecture

People may not respond well to lectures about their finances and legal decisions; especially when it comes from their children. Therefore, be sure you approach the topic as a two-way discussion. 

Ask your parent or loved one questions and encourage them to ask you questions. Explain why you may have concerns about certain things and give them the opportunity to respond.

Don't ask inappropriate questions

Regardless of your relationship, it is never a good idea to ask inappropriate questions or make unkind statements. This could include demanding to know how much money you'll receive, challenging a person's charitable goals or asking about things like affairs. These and other difficult questions can be addressed by an attorney, if they need to be addressed at all.

Instead, ask them if they have created or updated their plan recently. You could also ask who will make financial and medical decisions on their behalf. These questions take the focus off your needs and prioritize theirs.

Choose your timing wisely

Think carefully about when you bring up the topic of an estate plan. For instance, you probably shouldn't do it during an argument or when people have been drinking. Discussing it when you only have a few minutes could also be unwise.

Give yourselves time to have an open, honest discussion, especially if you expect it to be a difficult conversation. Ensure only people who need to be there are involved. Talk in a comfortable, quiet place where everyone feels at ease.

Taking these tips into consideration can make it a little easier to have a difficult - but critical - conversation.

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