Estate planning is an absolute necessity for people who want to pass on a legacy to their children, but the heirs also need to understand the process to make sure the effort doesn’t go to waste. Many people struggle to help their family understand the process and their role in it, and sometimes they even cause family conflicts. There are a few ways to make the process easier, and it is a good idea for everyone to understand them before they get started.
Treat Them As Equals
It can be very easy for parents to take an authoritarian tone with their adult children, especially when those children aren’t particularly interested in taking part in estate planning. Doing so is a mistake, even if it comes naturally. They are likely to feel as though their parents are trying to control their lives or disrespecting them, and that will stop them from engaging with the process.
It is much more effective to treat them as equals throughout the process. Asking for their opinions or for their help is better than demanding that they do fill out forms or listen to a lecture about estate planning.
Establish Clear Boundaries
It is also easy to accidentally overstep boundaries when setting up a plan for managing assets in the future. For example, parents often try to look into the private financial documents of their children during the process, which is an invasion of privacy that can destroy trust. It is important to work out clear boundaries for all parties during the early part of the process to make sure that everyone feels as though their privacy is respected. If it is necessary to access someone’s documents, it is important to ask to do so rather than demanding to do it or assuming that they will consent.
Practice Clear Communication
This is a complicated topic that tends to lead to strong emotions. Clear communication can help to prevent confusion and to keep feelings under control. Fortunately, communication skills are fairly easy to learn. The most important step is to simply listen to everyone and take their concerns seriously, even when they seem unusual. It is also a good idea to use neutral language to avoid making anyone feel like they are being accused of wrongdoing. It takes some practice to get it right, but it will make everything go more smoothly.
Lou Mancusi is the Managing Director of Noyes Advisors, LLC, an affiliate of David A. Noyes & Company, a full-service wealth management firm.