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For this and the following post, Asurest would like to thank its friend and rising star in the Richmond legal community, Eli Hill, for his contributions.

If you’ve taken that important first step of creating an estate plan, congratulations!  Starting is often the hardest step and if you’ve done that, you’re hopefully enjoying some well-earned relief at having the difficult part behind you.  You may now want to communicate this plan to loved ones, so they know in advance your wishes and objectives.  If so, here are a few tips on getting started.

  1. Preparation – “Take a Step Back”

Before ever getting into ‘what goes to who’ or ‘who should do what’, take time to figure out how you want your legacy to be remembered. Think broadly about what matters most to you, instead of specifically what will please others.  No parent wants the division of their assets to lead to the division of their family.  Taking time to define key objectives will help you stay grounded in the process.

  1. Location – “Home Court Advantage”

While modern technology makes exchanges of information easy, discussing your end-of-life arrangements should still be done face-to-face.  Separate conversations over email or the phone risk misinterpretation.  Give loved ones advance notice of your intention to share your information all at once and invite them to a space that is both comfortable and familiar.

  1. Timing – “Minimize the Disruption”

Holidays present a convenient time to host these discussions, but don’t let them become the focal point of the festivities.  Instead of having the talk after dessert on Thanksgiving, consider waiting until the following day.  Although the discussion matters, disrupting well-loved traditions can add an unnecessary layer of resentment and worry to an already heavy conversation.

  1. Tone – “Cool, Calm, and Collected”

At the meeting itself, some family may not agree with your choices, but your wishes can still be heard and respected.  The goal of efficient communication is not to achieve consensus. Anticipate potential areas of contention and be ready to offer justifications for those decisions. Allow others to express their thoughts openly, but do not feel pressured to alter your decisions.

  1. Follow Up – “Keep the Lights On”

No matter how the first conversation plays out, be proud of taking that first step! It may take some family members longer than others to understand and respect your decisions.  Keep the lines of communication open.  Follow up with everyone, reiterating the main takeaways, including where important documents or records are kept.

By thinking about the preparation, location, timing, tone, and follow up you will make the daunting topic much more approachable.   Call or email Asurest for help communicating or to get started.


Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.