How to Talk to Loved Ones About Estate Planning

It isn’t always easy to talk with loved ones about your estate plan or ask about what their estate plan entails. There can be many reasons for resistance: a desire for privacy with personal matters, a fear of conflict during the discussion, frustration over hard to answer questions that come up, and the fear of contemplating death or injury. Having a good estate plan in place, that includes a Will, Powers of Attorney, Living Will (aka, Advanced Directives for Medical Care, CPR Directive, and HIPAA Authorization, in the event of an accident or injury is vital to maintaining good legal and financial health. Here are some tips to approaching this topic with your loved ones:

1. Timing. Choose a time when your loved one is feeling relaxed, receptive, and comfortable with few distractions, generally after doing a favorite activity or having a favorite meal. Holiday gatherings may be an ideal time to get everyone together to have these talks.

2. Caring and Compassionate Approach. Always come from a place of  caring, calmness, compassion and genuine concern when talking about these challenging subjects.

3. Instructions on Specific Care. Remind your loved one that you care about them, and you want to know what to do if they ever got hurt and how they wish to be cared for.

4.  Holiday Gatherings. Holidays can offer a time when families get together. Open the discussion by talking about your own planning before asking your loved one about their planning.

5.  Avoid Becoming Adversarial. If your loved one is resistant to the topic, offering up a story of how a spouse or loved one suffered a hardship because there was no plan in place when their spouse, parent, sibling, child, or friend, was hurt can offer a non-imposing way to broach the seriousness of accomplishing the task.

6. Don’t Give Up.  Approach the topic with gentle persistence, if anyone gets agitated – take a break and revisit the topic later (sometimes days or weeks later). Do not give up!

7. Colorado’s Plan For You.   If you do not have a plan in place, Colorado has one for you. If you do not clearly express your wishes and desires, there may be significant disagreement by your relatives and loved ones over how your treatment and care should be handled.  If you cannot care for yourself, a Conservator (over finances) and a Guardian (over your person) must be appointed by the Court.  This process is time consuming, costly, and requires annual reports to the court.

Many folks think of estate planning as just having a completed Will.  While a Will is important, a current and valid Durable Power of Attorney (“POA”) for both medical and financial matters is much more important while a person is alive but unable to make decisions for themselves. A simple fall can take away the capacity to sign documents – and without a valid POA no one (not a spouse or family member) is legally permitted to act on your behalf to access your money – without going to court for legal authorization. Completing a Will and POA, tells the world who YOU want to help you, otherwise the court decides.