How to talk about estate planning with your loved ones

Learn what goes into having a successful and productive estate planning conversation.

An effective estate planning discussion with loved ones can create transparency and trust as you move toward achieving your legacy goals. It gives you the opportunity to explain your decision-making process and how it connects to your values.

We will help you plan for and facilitate the estate planning discussion when the time comes.

Here’s an approach to creating a healthy family estate planning conversation:

In this article:

  1. Decide who should be part of the conversation
  2. Establish how you want to explain your goals and values
  3. Have an agenda
  4. Look for ways to draw people into the discussion
  5. Consider bringing in help
  6. Questions to discuss with us

1. Decide who should be part of the conversation

Carefully select and invite those who should attend. This can include your loved ones, heirs, as well as the person you’ve chosen (or plan to ask) to be your executor or trustee. Also consider including us as a facilitator to help structure a productive discussion.

Advice spotlight

To help minimize confusion, invite anyone who may be impacted (or surprised) by your estate planning conversation. This will allow you to directly answer questions about your thought process and potentially prevent future challenges to your estate.

Learn more: How to choose an estate planning team: Attorneys, trustees and executors

2. Establish how you want to explain your goals and values

This is an opportunity to clearly articulate the financial goals and values that have informed your plan — and explain the reasoning behind your decisions. These questions may help guide the discussion: 

  • What are your values concerning money and where did they come from?
  • What are your biggest priorities in an estate plan? 
  • What are your greatest hopes and most significant concerns about what happens to your estate? 
  • What are the causes, charities or philanthropic endeavors you care about most? 
  • Do you have specific wishes with how your beneficiaries use their inheritance? 
  • Do you have any concerns about your heir’s ability to manage their inheritance? 

Learn more: Estate planning and charitable giving: Strategies to make an impact with your estate

3. Have an agenda

Defining an agenda can help prioritize the topics and issues you want to cover.

One key outcome of the meeting is to ensure the participants understand their responsibilities after you’re gone — and whether they are comfortable with their respective roles. For example, does your executor or trustee know what will be expected of them? Is the beneficiary of an investment account comfortable managing such assets? 

As part of this estate planning conversation, explain the people and resources available to help and how to access them upon your passing.

4. Look for ways to draw people into the discussion

The most productive meetings are conversations. Provide plenty of opportunities for feedback and to elicit potential concerns or questions. 

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Is there anything that surprised the group about the estate plan or the thinking behind it?
  • Are the details of the plan clear?
  • How do we avoid any unintended vagueness or messiness?
  • Are there any gaps in the estate plan that need to be addressed?

5. Consider bringing in help

Regardless of your family situation and complexity of the estate, professionals can help. We will help you plan the meeting and facilitate the conversation, and your estate attorney can explain the legal aspects of more complicated trusts or other strategies. In particularly complex or contentious situations, it may be worthwhile to hire a professional mediator to join your advisor and attorney to help guide the discussion.

Prioritize your estate planning conversation

As you contemplate your legacy, we will help you foster an open and productive dialogue with your family members about your estate.

Questions to discuss with us

  • How can you help me facilitate an estate planning conversation with my family and heirs?
  • How could an estate attorney or professional mediator help communicate my wishes to my heirs?
  • Can you recommend an estate planning attorney or professional mediator?