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The Customized Estate Plan: 5 Things to Talk About with Your Family this Holiday Season

November 20, 2017 Douglas Davis

The Customized Estate Plan_

You intend to pass along your wealth through your estate plan, but what about your wisdom?

Ensuring you accomplish both means having a conversation with your family about your money, your legacy, and your core principles. With the holidays coming up quickly, family dinners and kids in from out of town means this is an ideal time to have this conversation.

Most families lead far-flung and busy lives, so holidays are often the only time of the year they see one another face-to-face, probably around the dinner table. Making plans to talk through your estate plan at some point while everyone is at home or together is best. Don’t spring the conversation on everyone over a turkey dinner. People tend to shy away from these conversations, considering them “morbid.” But the truth is, talking about it now can put you all at ease and reduce the stress on family after someone has passed.

Working with your estate planning attorney in collaboration with any other advisors you have in your corner can make this legacy-enriching process seamless and genuinely enjoyable. But bringing your family and your professional advisors into the conversation is better yet, as they’ll get to learn new things about you and get to share stories and memories of their own. Here are just a few of the topics you’ll want to go over during your family meeting:

  1. Share your story

You may think your kids remember all the stories you’ve ever told them about your childhood or theirs, but memories can fade. Now is the perfect time to record stories about your own life narrative or family stories. You can even set up a recording during holiday dinner to capture a special time or conversation – most smart phones have a memo recording option that will work just fine for this. These recordings will be treasured while you’re still here and long after you’re gone. Allow your family members to ask about particularly fond memories of yours, knowing that you’re creating a time capsule of sorts that will contain the uniqueness of your personality and the experiences that shaped you into the person you are today. And perhaps most importantly, share the valuable lessons you’ve learned from your experiences. Your family will be better for it.

  1. How you’d like to be honored

Estate planning involves considering some weighty decisions when it comes to long-term care, powers of attorney, and other situations that may arise should you become mentally incapacitated. Although these are not the sunniest of topics, it’s important to express to your family why you’re opting for the choices you feel most aligned with. This will ease those processes for your loved ones, should these things ever come to pass. And once you get this part of the conversation covered, there are better things to come.

  1. Your family tree

Your family might be curious about more than just your own life story. Take this time to go over your family tree and answer questions the younger members of your family don’t know the answers to about your heritage. Creating a beautiful family tree – either on paper or digitally – can even make an excellent gift for your family members. They’ll be able to reference it and build upon it throughout the years.

  1. Significant heirlooms

Every family has heirlooms, and every piece tells a story. It’s common for estate plans to contain physical objects that matter dearly to their owners, such as furniture, garments, jewelry, hobby collections, and memorabilia. Keeping the story of the object alive is more important than transferring its monetary value to the next generation. The holidays can be a great time to take out Grandpa’s war medals or Grandma’s favorite broach and share these stories with your kids and grandkids so they understand the item’s value when it’s passed on.

  1. Your core values

Your estate plan can be customized to include specific language that carries your values along with it while still leaving room for your beneficiaries to grow and explore on their own terms. Educational, incentive, and charitable trusts are just a few methods available to you to express your values through your estate plan. Talking through these values with your family will help explain the decisions you’ve made when the time comes.

You know there’s much more to you than the wealth you’ve accumulated in your life. Likewise, your estate plan is about more than just your financial worth. After all, what’s passed down from generation to generation amounts to something far greater than numbers on paper.