Discussing what happens after you’re gone is no easy feat. Moreover, death itself can remain taboo, and many people may not want to hear about your will, considering it too dreary a topic.
However, the discussion around your will is important, and there are many benefits to having that conversation early. While there are often various ways to broach heavy topics with different people, a clear and direct dialogue is likely best in informing your loved ones about who gets what, how, and why.
Despite your best intentions, there are many challenges here that can arise. Talk of your will needs to come with a few teachable moments and words of advice that should hopefully resonate long after you’ve passed.
So, how can you achieve all of this? How can you talk to your family about your will in a useful and proactive fashion? Keep reading after the jump for some ideas.
Start Discussions Early
Some people leave the talk about their will until the eleventh hour. Others will evade the conversation entirely.
However, it could be better to outline the parameters of your will as soon as it’s made, which is hopefully long before you pass. If you give the beneficiaries plenty of time to ask questions and memorise your last wishes, the process can go much more smoothly for them later. Remember, everyone has wildly different plans for their will, so setting realistic expectations can be good.
Additionally, human errors can occur in all walks of life, including making wills. If there are any oversights, running the parameters of your will by them may help you and your loved one spot mistakes or things you haven’t accounted for with your estate. Wills can be a work in progress and, in some circumstances, negotiated between loved ones, so try to keep everyone on the same page.
Of course, your loved ones may also prefer to have certain things from the will. Some items you own have sentimental value to them, for example. Talking about your will early allows them to request those objects. You can approve or decline their effort, but giving them the chance to ask can show you’ve been considerate and not left these items up for dispute once you’ve gone.
Have Contingency Plans For Disputes
You can’t always predict how family members react to your will at the time of your passing. Circumstances can change, financial pressures can evolve, and strong feelings can materialise that impede rational judgement.
Furthermore, being appointed executor of a will is a great honour, and those with the privilege usually attempt to do their best to see things through without bias. Once again, people can change, and the executor may not always be as responsible as you had hoped. There’s always a chance things can go wrong, so getting ahead of those moments is a good idea.
Whether your potential beneficiaries start in-fighting or executors have betrayed your last wishes, people can let you down after you’ve gone. The loved ones that are left to navigate this chaotic mess of a situation will need experts in contested wills and trusts to help them rapidly resolve these matters.
Try to avoid being let down by others by recommending specialists in contested wills & estates to your beneficiaries, so they know who to go to if problems arise. This service can help with will disputes, negligence and Inheritance Claims, and many other matters. Your loved ones can get the process started with a free, no-obligation quote too. Ensure their best interests are taken into account even after you’ve gone.
Focus on the Positives
It can be easy for discussion of wills to digress into the subject of your death or other concerning consequences of it. However, it’s better for the talk around your will to be a more uplifting discussion than that. After all, it’s your legacy to a degree that should always be celebrated.
Unfortunately, wills can also be bogged down in devious games and familial backstabbing. If you can spearhead the discussion, you can set a precedent for the tone of the proceedings and ensure everyone is on their best behaviour when discussing your estate.
It’s important to stay positive if you’re distributing your estate unevenly. For example, if one loved one needs more help than another, you may need to justify giving them more from your will to the rest of your beneficiaries. Alternatively, if you’re giving everything to your favourite charity, you should explain why you’re doing this and how it might help so many people’s lives.
It might be that not all of your choices are agreed with straightaway. That said, if you can be optimistic about your will and convince everyone that what you’re doing is for the best, then you can set a much more upbeat aura around your will before and after your passing.
Present Drafts of Your Will
Some things are better understood when they’re read instead of heard. Having some written text to base your discussions off may help facilitate the conversation further.
You could even send this off before any scheduled discussions take place. That way, all the relevant parties have time to digest the information and annotate any points of interest. If they want to think on matters post-discussion, the draft of your will can give them convenient reminders of your wishes.
A draft can also communicate that you’re serious about your proposal. If you’ve gone through the effort of putting something together, it highlights a degree of forethought and weighted consideration. Your wishes are less abstract and concrete, which may spur apprehensive loved ones into getting on board with your will sooner.
Remember, you don’t need to create anything too elaborate here, as it’s just a draft. A big block of text might be overwhelming to read, so present everything in digestible paragraphs or bullet points.
Schedule the Time
An impromptu discussion about wills over the dinner table might seem convenient at first. Nevertheless, these conversations can be over quickly and soon forgotten.
Schedule the time to discuss your will and ask others to do the same. That way, you can all discuss these matters in one go, and you won’t need to lead a series of fragmented discussions across a lengthier period. Zoom may be a reliable tool if someone can’t make it in person.
Scheduling the talk around your will doesn’t mean this interaction needs to be formal. Once you’ve gathered everyone together, you can discuss these matters somewhat casually, eat and share comfort foods, and generally relax. Once again, it’s important to keep the mood upbeat where possible, so steer away from any drama however you can.
Consider giving yourself room to ‘overrun’ if engagement is high and people have many questions. That way, there’s less pressure to wrap things up quickly, and those gathered may feel they have more room to ask questions.
Mention Potential Changes
During the discussion of your will, you’ll present drafts, ideas, and contingency plans. Make sure people know the situation is ever-evolving.
Make sure those gathered know that circumstances can change, such as if a loved one faces hard times and needs more support. Any agreements made aren’t set in stone. Once that’s clear, you may be able to get ahead of any disputes after you’ve gone.
Assure those gathered that you’ll update them if there are any changes. Be open to the prospect of further discussions, if necessary, too.