How to Navigate Your Emotions During Estate Planning

Picture of Walter Wisniewski, CFP®

Walter Wisniewski, CFP®

Whether you consciously realize it or not, money topics and your emotions are considerably intertwined. If you have been considering estate planning as a way to secure your family’s long-term financial security and to put plans in place for the next generation, you may find yourself navigating unexpected emotions or difficult family dynamics. That is because estate planning is about much more than just numbers on a spreadsheet – it’s about family, feelings, and honest discussions.

4 Tips to Navigate Your Emotions During Estate Planning

If you prepare yourself ahead of time for the emotional aspects of such planning, you’ll find the process easier to manage. Below, we’ll discuss four helpful tips you should consider as you discuss your estate.

1. Handle Estate Planning Topics with Care

When it’s time to initiate a conversation about the future planning of your estate and portfolio, be open and honest – but also be sure to be respectful and considerate. Many people feel uncomfortable about financial discussions, or there could be confusion or questions that need to be addressed. Let’s look at two common types of estate discussions:

 If you are a parent hoping to discuss the issue with your adult children, you might start with something like, “Since we’re getting older, we want to talk as a family about the future and share some of our financial hopes and expectations with you.” 
If you are hoping to discuss such planning with your aging parents, it is possible the conversation is being spurred by something like a health scare or upcoming surgery. In this case, you might want to begin with something like, “Mom and Dad, your health and happiness mean everything to us, and we want to make sure there are resources in place to support your needs now and in the future. Let’s make a plan that allows us to help you navigate medical issues in the future, and to work on your behalf if necessary.” 
In either type of conversation, plan it ahead of time with everyone involved, and use the time to focus specifically on the topic at hand. This will help to mitigate other subjects coming up, and it also allows each family member to be prepared for a possible emotional discussion.

2. Utilize Professional Estate Planning Guidance

If you’re concerned that this type of planning might ignite difficult family dynamics, such as sibling rivalry, you may consider using a third-party professional to facilitate the discussion and take some of the emotion out of it. When you have a “referee” of sorts, difficult conversations are likely to remain more focused and productive. Using a financial professional is also helpful because they can guide you through this process and ensure you are making thoughtful decisions.

An estate planning attorney should draft the actual legal documents, but a financial advisor can help you understand them properly, too. They can also play the role of helping you coordinate family meetings so that multiple generations can collaborate during the planning process. A financial advisor can, essentially, provide a road map for conversations and decision-making as you navigate the entire process, ensuring that there is a plan in place to meet all of your objectives throughout your life, and for future generations.

3. Keep the End Game in Mind

Given what we’ve discussed above, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of planning for the future. While it is true that emotions and family dynamics can complicate money matters, continue to take the steps in moving forward toward securing your family’s financial future. While the process may prove rocky at times, you will find tremendous peace of mind in the end. The benefits of creating an estate plan for your family far outweigh any tough decisions you need to make, as there may even be tax implications that would affect the outcome of your estate, without a plan in place. In creating a set of documents for your spouse and family, you will be able to create a legacy for future generations to enjoy.

4. Understand that Things Can Always Be Changed

When we work with families in creating an estate plan, every decision seems to hold heavy weight. It’s important to realize that each decision you made can always be changed. In fact, the best estate plans are the ones that are continually reviewed every few years, in order to ensure your goals are being met. Many times, it’s important to create a set of documents to help your family avoid tough conversations after you are gone. It may also significantly help reduce the tax liability of your estate, leaving more money to be distributed among your heirs, charities, or friends. Once you have the beginnings of an estate plan in place, it becomes very easy to make quick changes as needed.

Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. Information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be, and you should not consider anything to be, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. If you would like investment, accounting, tax or legal advice, you should consult with own financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys regarding your individual circumstances as needed. No advice may be rendered by Arcadia unless a client service agreement is in place. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.

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