Speaking to your family about plans for what you leave to them should mean fewer disputes and squabbles but how do you bring up the slightly awkward conversation?
There is no doubt that it’s a good idea to talk to your loved ones if you want to avoid family disputes – both now and after you’re gone. It’s the perfect chance to explain what you are choosing to do with your estate and explain to your family why you feel it’s the best course of action. Nobody enjoys having to talk about death but it’s an important conversation to have – here’s how to make it as easy as possible.
Preparing to have the talk
1. Lay out your goals
Your will should not be about who deserves what – it should be about what you want your estate to achieve. Write a list of your key priorities – these might include:
- Supporting a charity close to your heart
- Ensuring your partner or spouse is cared for
- Taking care of a relative with a disability or illness
- Ensuring your children or grandchildren receive the best education
One you have decided on these things, it will be far easier to figure out what to leave to whom.
2. Write a rough draft
If you have a basic outline of your will, the conversation will go much more smoothly. This way, you can talk about your personal wishes, rather than having others telling you what they want. At the end of the day, this is your decision.
3. Set up a time to talk
Let your family know in advance that you’d like to talk about your will at that time – this gives them a chance to think things over first. Set aside a time or arrangement when everyone is free and keep things relaxed.
During the conversation
1. Explain what it is you want to achieve
Tell your loved ones the reasons for the legacies you are planning on leaving. This will give them a better chance to understand your point of view and an idea of what to expect from the conversation. If you focus on what you would like your will to achieve, rather than the money aspect of it, it can help avoid conflict.
2. Detail out your plan
Don’t forget to link this back to your goals.
3. Ask for suggestions and opinions
Your loved ones might have specific expectations about your estate so encourage them to be open about this so you can understand. It is ultimately your decision, but others might have good ideas about how to look after loved ones that you may not have thought of. They might also care about a specific sentimental item.
4. Emphasize that this decision is ‘for now’
Many things will happen between this conversation and the end of your life, which can affect your will. You might have new babies being born, or you may experience losses. You can – and should – change up your will when these things happen. Reassure your loved ones that you are prepared to reassess and review things as they change.
5. Remember to be as tactful as possible
Family relationships can be rocky and discussing things like wills and inheritances can give rise to these. Make it clear that your will is purely about what you want to happen to your assets when you’re gone, and that you want to be pragmatic and constructive about that. Obviously, some decisions might be based on who you like and don’t like but saying this aloud won’t help the cause. Instead, try explaining that the funds will do better elsewhere. Again, be clear on your goals.
1. Review your will plan
Have a look at your plan after you have had the conversation – it may have just reinforced what you would like to do or given you some ideas about changes you would like to make.
2. Write or update your will
After talking through things with your loved ones, you are ready to proceed to the next stage, which is constructing your will for the first time or updating the document if you have an existing one.
How do I ask someone if I am in their Will?
There are three options when it comes to finding out this information:
- While a will document is personal and private, it is possible to ask the testator themselves if you are in fact included in their will. This is the only way to check if the person is still alive.
- Ask the executor of the Will after the testator’s death if there is anything be-quested to you. The executor is responsible for fulfilling all requests in a last Will and Testament by law and this is checked by the courts. You can ask them directly if there is a bequest for you in the Will.
- If you do not know who the executor of the Will is, or if the will has not yet been found after the death of the testator, then you can either find this information by locating the Will, or find the court that probates the will and they should be able to tell you the name of the executor after finding the probate file. If there is no executor, the court will appoint one.