Are you wondering about how to talk to your family about your Will? Talking about plans for what you leave in your Will isn’t exactly an easy dinner-table conversation. But it’s something that, at some point, all of us will need to talk about. After all, it’ll mean fewer issues and less confusion for those left behind.
Why it’s good to talk
There’s no doubt about it, death can be a conversation stopper. And when you add finances to the fold, it almost feels unnatural to talk about. It’s no wonder as few as 7% of people have spoken to their parents about inheritance.
Many people avoid discussing it altogether, leaving relatives to try and work out what their plans were, which can cause upset and disagreement at a time of grief.
The first step is to try and move away from thinking of estate planning as solely a financial conversation. Instead, think about it as one where you weigh-up what is important to you and your family and the type of legacy you wish to leave.
Having been advising the people of Bury St Edmunds on Wills and Probate for several years, we can confidently say every family situation is different. If you can, having a chat before you put a plan in place is a good way to include relatives as it can help prevent any arguments, which may occur after a Will has been made.
You may find that giving your family the heads-up that you’d like to talk about your Will at a set time gives them a chance to think things over.
Getting ready for ‘the talk’
These conversations don’t have to be uncomfortable if approached in a way that works for you and your family. There’s no blueprint for when and how you should have ‘the talk’ as it really depends on the relationship you have with your family, but here’s a few tips for easing the conversation along.
Whether you speak to family members individually or bring everyone together depends on your family situation. By listening to your family and discussing their wider life-plans, you’ll likely form some new ideas on how you wish to carve-up your estate. For example, one of your children may wish to start their own business and so would appreciate a cash injection whilst another may appreciate a home of their own. They might also care a lot about an object they see as having sentimental value.
What to discuss
Whatever you decide, it’s helpful to segment your conversation into three key subjects, which will help when you meet with your chosen Wills and Probate solicitors.
Discussing personal finances isn’t an easy conversation. Remember, there’s no rule to say that you must talk about the figures.
Instead, you might wish to discuss how the different aspects of your estate that have a financial value could be distributed.
You may also want to have the discussion over who will be the Executors of your Will; this will be specific people (usually two) named in your Will who will take legal responsibility for carrying out your instructions.
Other things you might wish to consider are:
- Do you want to leave money to a charity?
- Are there any children under the age of 18 that need to be considered?
- What happens if your family grows? Do you want to leave money to future grandchildren?
- Do your family know where your important papers are kept?
- Would you be comfortable documenting your bank accounts, insurance policies, investments, etc. and securely placing it with a person of your choice?
Family members, and even friends, may have fond memories of certain items you own or perhaps they bought you a gift and you would rather they received the item on your passing. There could be any number of scenarios.
Why not make a list of all those potential items and ask your family members if there is anything they feel particularly attached to?
For items that have a higher value, for example, jewellery, art, antiques or collectibles, you might want to be specific on how each is handled.
Once you’re aware of which items are significant to your family members, you can specify them in a “letter of intent”, stored with your Will, expressing your clear wishes to pass on certain items to your loved ones.
This is perhaps the hardest part of the conversation to have, but by talking openly with your family, they won’t have to second-guess your wishes in the future. You can be as detailed as you like, even referencing what music you would like to be played.
Questions you may wish to consider are:
- Would you like to be cremated or buried?
- Where would you like this to take place?
- Or perhaps you would like an entirely different arrangement?
- How would you like your ashes to be handled?
- What would you like your funeral to be like? Do you have any preferences as to music or readings that you would like included?
In discussing your funeral plans, it’s also the ideal time to talk about planning for medical incapacity. Who would look after your estate and make key decisions about your health and welfare if you were to lose capacity? You might want to talk about who you will give Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to. Our blog on ‘your LPA questions answered’ explains the difference between a Property and Finances LPA and a Health and Welfare LPA.
Hopefully, after talking with your family, you’ll be feeling confident with your plans. Although the legal side of inheritance planning, Will drafting and signing of documents still has to take place, at least you’ll be clear on what you want to achieve.