Estate Planning

Have You Discussed Your Estate Plan With Your Family? Here’s How You Can Make It Easier.

by Alli Thomas

Jul 30, 2020

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the importance of creating and updating your estate plan, but what good is it to be well prepared if you never discuss it with your family?

Unfortunately, many people make this mistake. They spend a lot of time thinking about their estate plan, then they meet with an attorney or advisor to set it up…and then never say a word to their children or other beneficiaries about it.

So here are some tips about how to discuss your estate plan with your family:


Consider your family’s special circumstances before planning your meeting.

Perhaps you have a blended family, with stepchildren and biological children not receiving equal amounts of an inheritance. Or maybe one of your children has a problem with an addiction, or is otherwise financially irresponsible. It’s not uncommon for families to deal with complex or sensitive situations. But it is important to have a plan ahead of time for how you want to handle these discussions.


Set up a time and location that works for everyone.

If your kids have young children, they should arrange for childcare so that they have fewer distractions to contend with during the meeting.

It will also be helpful for everyone to have an idea of how long the meeting will run. Most recommendations suggest a two-hour timeframe.

Most experts say that choosing a familiar, comfortable and non-public place for the meeting is best. Many people wind up having the meeting at their homes. Having your meeting around a kitchen or dining room table might work.


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Create an agenda

Make an outline of the topics you plan to cover during the meeting–and decide if it makes sense to distribute it to everyone ahead of time. You know your family, so giving them a detailed agenda beforehand may not be in anyone’s best interest.

While creating an agenda may seem a little silly or overly formal, having your ideas on paper will help accomplish a few things.

First, it will keep your meeting on track and ensure that you cover everything that you wish while you have all the important players in the same room. I don’t know about your family, but when my folks and I get together, conversation seems to easily go off on one tangent or another. A written agenda will help you stay focused.

Second, it may help your children or other beneficiaries to think of questions or concerns that you can then discuss during the meeting.

Here are some topics, in no particular order, that you may want to include in your agenda:

  • Healthcare power of attorney/living wills
  • Life insurance policies
  • Wills
  • Real estate
  • Tangible assets, such as art, jewelry, cars, other collectibles
  • Trusts
  • Desired funeral arrangements


Consider including your advisor or attorney in the meeting.

There’s a good chance that someone will raise a technical question that you don’t know how to answer during the course of your family meeting. Your estate attorney or financial advisor is a valuable resource, so you should think about having them join you.


Consider holding a similar family meeting every 2-3 years.

Lives can change a lot in that time. Marriages, divorces, births and deaths may mean changes to your estate plan–and you should keep your children and beneficiaries informed of these.

Did you know that only 18% of Americans age 55 and older have a full estate plan in place?  If you’ve been thinking about your estate plan–or lack thereof–it’s time to put it together. One of our financial advisors can help you do just that. Click here to schedule a free, no-obligation conversation today.


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Alli Thomas

Alli Thomas has worked in the financial services industry for nearly 20 years, with a focus on retirement-related investing. She began her career as a FINRA-licensed participant-services call-center associate at Vanguard, and then moved to Principal Financial Group, where she worked closely with employers, assisting with retirement plan set-up and design, selecting appropriate plan investment offerings, and maximizing employee participation through targeted education campaigns and enrollment meetings. Alli has also worked as a qualified 401(k) administrator and registered investment advisor for several small investment firms. She now writes about all things investment- and finance-related, leveraging her extensive experience and passion for retirement planning to help investors make well-informed financial decisions.

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