How to Have a Productive Family Meeting About Estate Planning

How to Have a Productive Family Meeting About Estate Planning

In a perfect world, everyone would have an estate plan. At 18 and while in good health, everyone would wake up in the morning with an appointment to meet their Washington estate planning lawyer already penned on the calendar. They would also already know that creating their first estate plan is an investment in their future. Unfortunately, that is not what always happens. Sometimes, people need prodding, especially if they are getting on in years or their health is in decline, whether due to advancing age or an unexpected medical diagnosis. 

The mere suggestion to a loved one by one person to create an estate plan is often inadequate. In such cases, the individual requesting such a meeting, without much success, usually turns to other family members or close friends, who are essentially family, for support. They ask them not only to help them organize a family meeting about their loved one’s estate planning but also to attend. 

This collective involvement can prove helpful, as it emphasizes the importance of an estate plan and is an actionable step toward creating one. If done thoughtfully, a family meeting about estate planning can aid in creating a comprehensive estate plan that offers the individual creating it security and comfort during life and their loved ones the same after that person dies

However, having a productive family meeting about estate planning is easier said than done. A family member can be reluctant to discuss personal matters, such as their finances, as well as end-of-life wishes, which means if you do get them to agree to a meeting, you want to make it as pleasant and effective as possible. Below are a few tips to do so. 

Prepare thoroughly for a family meeting about estate planning. 

Like most things in life, the more you prepare, the better off you will be. This applies to preparing for a family meeting about estate planning. So, you want to be thorough about it. 

To that end, alert those who need to be involved and present that a meeting will be coming up. Then, find a date and time that allows everyone who needs to be there to attend, even if it means some individuals have to attend via video conference in order to get everyone in the same room. The location should be a comfortable and private environment for all, especially the person who needs to create the estate plan. 

Next, appoint one person to lead the meeting prior to its commencement. This is to keep it organized; this person will not have more of a say than anyone else. 

After you have appointed a meeting leader, set the agenda. Key topics should include the will, trusts, powers of attorney (medical and financial), and who will hold the various roles needed in the estate plan, such as executor (or co-executors), trustees, guardians, and proxies. 

Beforehand, you will also want to gather any existing documents relevant to the creation of a new estate plan. These documents can include the individual’s current will or trust documents and other financial documents. Don’t forget about digital files and accounts. 

If you are unsure what information you may need to collect to create a comprehensive estate plan, consult a Seattle estate planning attorney who has a vetted extensive referral network. This individual should be able to refer you to a financial advisor to further support your efforts. 

Meeting Etiquette

The day of the meeting is as important, if not more important, than the preparation you do for it. Without obeying certain meeting etiquette, you risk losing your opportunity to discuss estate planning with your loved one and may not get another opportunity. 

Having a productive family meeting about estate planning will, therefore, entail establishing some ground rules. The most important rule will be to engage in respectful communication, even and especially if the conversation becomes heated. 

The meeting leader should open the discussion by explaining why everyone is there and what the purpose of the meeting is. They should outline the topics up for discussion, which could include asset distribution, guardianship, and healthcare directives, to name a few. A Seattle estate planning lawyer can provide you with a more detailed list of estate planning topics to address so you come to the meeting prepared. 

The leader of the meeting should also encourage open communication and maintain a positive atmosphere. To that end, everyone should be free to voice their concerns and ask questions. The hope is for everyone to come to the meeting feeling flexible and open to compromise. 

However, if, based on past experiences, this environment may be an unrealistic prospect, it can help to arrange for a neutral facilitator to be present at the meeting. Don’t forget to designate one individual as a notetaker to document any agreements made or responsibilities assigned during the meeting. 

Follow Up Afterward

Following your (hopefully) productive family meeting about estate planning, the person who took the notes should distribute them to all of the attendees to ensure they are clear and accurate. Everyone present at the meeting, including the person who was the subject of it, should also review the notes carefully. If another meeting is necessary, get that on the calendar as well. 

At the same time, take steps to implement any decisions made at the meeting by contacting your Seattle estate planning lawyer or hiring one if you haven’t done so already. They will want to see the notes from your family meeting about estate planning and any legal documents you have pertaining to the creation of an estate plan. They will likewise want to meet your loved one who is creating the estate plan if they haven’t done so already. 

Find a Seattle Estate Planning Lawyer

Getting the ball rolling on creating an estate plan for someone who is reluctant or fearful of the process 

can be emotionally grueling and logistically challenging. A compassionate estate planning attorney can support you and your loved one. 

At Elise Buie Family Law, our team of Seattle estate planning lawyers understands your concerns about protecting a special person in your life and preserving their legacy in death. We know that every estate plan is as unique as the individuals it protects and can create a custom plan based on your and your family’s individual circumstances. For strategies about how to have a productive family meeting about estate planning and to plan a face-to-face meeting so we can speak with your loved one directly, contact us at our Seattle location or use our link to set up a consultation.   


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