Long-standing American family traditions are changing with the times. The sled trips through snowy woods and icy rivers have given way to cross-country jet flights and international Skype visits. But regardless of the changes, when you all do sit down to a holiday meal, according to thestreet.com's "Estate Planning Over Thanksgiving? Time to Talk Turkey," this is a perfect time to start talking about important family matters, including estate planning.
If families or cultures are averse to raising such topics around the holidays, there should be an annual meeting to let family members know where an estate plan stands.
When combing through assets, remember that no item is too small for discussion, especially during the holidays. It is a natural time for emotions to run high, but it is a great time to discuss items of seemingly insignificant value that may take on added significance for each potential heir.
These discussions are going to make some people uncomfortable. But even though you can't compel family members to participate against their will, you can learn valuable information about those family members through their reactions. For example, if a family member skips these meetings because of the emotional toll, he or she likely isn't the right person to take on power of attorney or to serve as executor of the will. In fact, the first meeting might be a great time to address that discomfort and consider bringing in an estate planning attorney to make recommendations. Some estate planning attorneys may be willing to serve in such roles.
Although there isn't really a consensus on whether the holidays are the best time to set an estate plan in motion, it is an opportunity to address concerns and answer questions about the future. As the family grows and changes, these meetings can help with discussions and answer questions like why the parents want a child's name added to their bank account to help ward off fraud, the elements of one's life and finances that should be discussed if they become incapacitated, as well as the provisions being made for your family's future.
Consult a qualified estate planning attorney to help guide you and your family through the process.
Reference: thestreet.com (November 9, 2015) "Estate Planning Over Thanksgiving? Time to Talk Turkey"