The holidays will not look the same this year for many families. While we are all hoping to gather together, our plans may have to change or look very different. But as plans change, so should our conversations about life’s unexpected turns. Family gatherings, whether in person or virtual, are a great time to ask important questions about your loved one’s care – or to at least get the conversation started.
Seventy percent of Americans say that their family is what they’re most thankful for as they gather around the dinner table. Now more than ever, we are truly appreciating the time we have with each other. With the family gathered, you may have a prime opportunity to broach the topic of medical care and estate planning during the pandemic.
You may notice that your once healthy parents are now much older and more fragile. Your family could have grown substantially, and some family members might be sick and others might have passed away. These familial changes are inevitable and almost expected as time moves on. What is usually a surprise though, is when a loved one becomes incapacitated or dies and does not have a plan. As your family changes, your estate plan should too. At Wiles Law, we can help you anticipate what could happen so you don’t have to. If you don’t have an estate plan set yet, there is always time to start somewhere. Beginning these delicate conversations now before an emergency arises is a great place to start.
First, asses your own family’s situation and make sure they are prepared for medical decisions, incapacity and asset protection. It’s important to make sure anyone elderly, single or at risk has an advanced healthcare directive setup, and if possible, a Will or Trust. This is to safeguard them through the pandemic and beyond. Next, think about the level of protection they need, especially if there is a minor in the family or someone with special needs.
Before you begin the conversation, pick a moment when you and your family members can spend time together. Find a comfortable, and private environment so everyone is relaxed, with no distractions that could send the conversation off-course. The goal on both sides is to make everyone feel at ease and create a framework for an ongoing dialogue that goes beyond the Thanksgiving holiday. Ask your parents if there are any wishes you should be aware of, or legacies and values to be passed down. Remind them to think about what their care should be in the future and who they would like to be in charge.
Encouraging parents to create formal documents after your conversations will relieve family stress and chaos during emergency situations. It will also ensure that their wishes, and assets go to the people they choose, at the time they want.
Don’t feel like you need to solve every discussion point during the holiday weekend, as it’s more important to just start the conversation. Focus the dialogue on key next steps or clarifying questions to document their wishes. Once the holiday is over, ask them to set some time aside to meet with our experts to make their intentions legal and safe. After all, who and what we are most thankful for is also what we want to protect. Let us help you protect your family’s values and grant the wishes of your loved ones.
To help gently open the conversation this holiday, we recommend some of these open-ended questions.
- Have you ever thought about what happens if you can’t take care of yourself?
- What are your wishes for care?
- Who would you like to make decisions for you?
- Have you written anything down? (If so, do you have any formal documents protecting you?) (If so, where can we find them?)
Speak to one of our experienced estate planning attorneys for a free assessment of your current plan or wishes. We’re here to help you achieve peace of mind and feel prepared. Whether you have a small or large estate, or just a need for a guardianship, we have worked with clients from all walks of life in the Charleston area and planned for all different kinds of needs. We look forward to learning your story and designing a strategy that creates a living legacy for you and your family.
For other tips on how to start conversations with loved ones, download our FREE estate planning worksheet with all of the key questions to ask this holiday season. Preserve your legacy now!