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How to avoid awkward estate planning conversations

As our readers gather for holiday celebrations and family events, conversations inevitably go towards the forbidden topics that make people uncomfortable (e.g. politics, financial advice, religious convictions). If your family is used to awkward conversations (or timely rebukes about forbidden conversations), it may still be appropriate to discuss estate planning.

To some families, estate planning discussions may be awkward because it invokes feelings of resentment from parents (or other elders) because they may feel as if people are trying to steal their money or that they are only valuable because of their assets.

Nevertheless, there are ways to broach this topic without creating family drama. This post will highlight these methods.

You don’t have to disclose everything – Discussing an estate plan, or having conversations about the topic does not necessarily include conversations about how much money you have, or who you have decided to pass on assets to. Planning is more about the “how” than the “what.”

Be wary of your opening – How you broach the topic is just as important as what you say afterwards. With that said, it could start with a current event story (e.g. Paul Walker’s death or Kasey Kasum’s care dispute).

Try to pass information – Instead of focusing on obtaining information from a parent or caregiver, try to pass information about estate planning that they may not know about. For example, many people may not know that there are many types of trusts.

Remember the occasion – Keep in mind that holiday gatherings are supposed to celebrate family and to have a good time together, so be careful not to badger someone about their estate plan (or lack of one).

Source:, “Holiday gatherings a chance to unwrap family money secrets,” Harry Campbell, December 6, 2013

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