How to do estate planning with your family this holiday season

No matter how far estate planning discussions go, advisers say it’s best to address the issue at least a day after the main holiday event.FG Trade/iStockPhoto/Getty Images

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The holiday is the first time many Canadian families have come together in person in years, and for some, it can be the perfect opportunity to discuss important topics like estate planning.

Talking about wills, long-term care needs, and who gets their valuables when a parent dies might not sound like pleasant holiday talk. Still, there are ways for families to make memories and discuss estate and end-of-life planning during the holidays, advisors say.

Maili Wong, senior wealth advisor and senior portfolio manager at the Wong Group in Wellington, said: “Families have had a lot to discuss this year, including changes in health and personal finances, especially after traditional family gatherings were disrupted for two years due to the pandemic. – Altus Private Wealth Inc. of Vancouver.

Given the unprecedented wealth transfer taking place between baby boomers and their heirs, estate planning is an increasingly important topic for families.One 2020 Angus Reed Forum Survey Nearly three in five Canadians (57 per cent) are unaware of their loved one’s end-of-life wishes, according to a survey commissioned by online estate planning platform Willful. The survey also found that 42 percent of families disagree after a loved one dies, and only 5 percent of adult children are aware of a family member’s end-of-life wishes.

Busy seasons may not be the best time to delve into wills, health and representation agreements, powers of attorney, or trust agreements, but parents can start by providing their adult children with some basic information to care about their clients in Toronto.

It could be as simple as parents telling their children which legal and financial professionals to contact if they get sick or die, where estate documents are kept and how to find the keys, she said.

“It’s the easiest and least contentious way to start a conversation,” Ms Fletcher said.

Parents can also use family time to learn about items their children might want to keep, such as furniture, jewelry, art, and heirlooms.

“Now is a great time to find out what different things mean to them,” she said. “Let them express their will.”

Ms Fletcher said parents might want to avoid potentially controversial topics at this time of year, such as what happened at the family cabin.

“Even if you don’t think it’s going to be sensitive, be aware that some topics can lead to family breakdown or irreparable rifts,” she says.

“Recognizing that these are stressful conversations. One of the things we hear from clients is, ‘I didn’t know these people were so divided on this issue.'”

No matter how far estate planning discussions go, Ms. Fletcher recommends holding them off at least a day after the main holiday event.

“Just do it when it’s a little more low-key,” she says.

She also said parents should remind their children that they plan to discuss family matters after the official celebration.

Start with a one-on-one conversation

Jennifer Tozser, senior wealth advisor and portfolio manager at Tozser Wealth Management, a Calgary National Bank financial wealth management firm, said the discussions shouldn’t be a “watershed event” that could overshadow the festivities.

She also recommends doing it a day or two after a formal family gathering and viewing it as a preventive conversation.

“I often say, ‘We deal with it because we don’t need to. If you’re prepared, you won’t have a problem when you eventually need to,'” she said.

Ms Tozser believes wills are the easiest topic for parents to talk about with their heirs because it’s less emotional than discussing how personal belongings will be divided or what actions to take if they become ill and need long-term care.

“People tend not to be as emotional about stocks as they are about sentimental things,” she said.

When discussing personal items, Ms. Tozser pointed to first having one-on-one conversations with children and then as a group.

“Give them a chance to say what they want in a private moment. You might be surprised by what they say,” she says. “Then, make sure it’s consistent in the will.”

Discussions can be “emotional”

The toughest conversations are often about how to care for parents if they are very ill, including end-of-life care.

“I’d suggest doing one at the end, depending on how successful you’ve been with the other [issues]’” Ms Tozser said.

Hospice discussions should include who will make long-term care decisions and how much parents want to spend.

“Some parents will be happier in a government facility because their property is intact, while others may want to spend every penny on getting health care at home,” Ms Tozser said.

Ms Wong said counselors can help clients communicate with their children by hosting family meetings and facilitating discussions.

“The most successful wealth transfers I’ve seen happen when there is a well-documented estate or financial plan, and it’s communicated well in advance with the family so there are no surprises later,” she said, adding Talking about talking about health and wealth can be emotionally charged, especially around the holidays.

“It’s important to respect personal boundaries and balance difficult conversations about finances or estate planning with the simple joys of rebuilding family relationships,” Ms. Wong said.

“The holiday season is often one of the few times of the year when families come together, so making time to maintain these enduring multigenerational relationships is critical.”

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