It can take many months of hard work, planning, decision making, and consultation in order to develop a sound estate plan. You do not want to undermine all of your hard work and progress by failing to properly and thoroughly explain the plan to your family. When it comes time to implement the plan, it will help them to understand your thinking as you developed the plan. They also need to know the steps to take if you are incapacitated or you pass away.
You can avoid confusion and frustration with a well-run family meeting that follows a few specific steps:
- Choose an appropriate meeting place. While a home may be too informal and familiar for a productive meeting, a restaurant or similar location may be too public for serious discussion of family matters. It is possible that a range of emotions may be involved, so privacy should be considered. A formal meeting room in a restaurant, hotel, or business will likely be suitable. Your attorney or financial advisor may have suggestions for an appropriate location.
- Choose a convenient time for those involved. While it may be convenient for actually getting together, you don’t want to ruin a family holiday. As you choose a time, consider whether you may be addressing some difficult topics that may produce tension and make plans to deal with it.
- Include your estate planning attorney or financial advisor in the meeting, if possible. They will provide credibility, an emotion-stabilizing presence, and professional answers to technical questions.
- Have a definite agenda written down. You don’t want to forget anything, and you need something to keep the meeting focused if things become emotionally charged.
- Give basic information and explanations of the steps to follow.
- Leave financial specifics about assets for another time.
- Encourage questions and comments.
- Be prepared for emotional anxiety as you discuss sensitive issues. Plan on addressing difficult issues even though they may be uncomfortable at first.
- Make it clear that there is a definite agenda regarding topics and time allotted in order to keep the meeting in hand.
- Make every effort to limit the meeting to adults. Children can be very distracting in meetings of this nature.