Tips for a stress-free conversation about your Will

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

No one likes unpleasant surprises. Talking about your Will with your family can be stressful, but it can also help to avoid a worse situation when you are gone.

Contemplating one’s own death can be hard and in many families, talking about money or inheritances is taboo. Some parents worry that letting their children know how much they stand to inherit may cause a sense of entitlement or encourage them to become less productive. Others fear the chat could stir up jealousies, insecurities and feuds among family members.

But no matter how stressful that conversation is, not talking about what’s in your Will could cause confusion, bitterness, far bigger family feuds and even legal battles after you’re gone.

Having a transparent and open talk about its contents could help your family understand the reasons behind your decisions and ensure their expectations are realistic. It can also reduce their anxiety. After all, it’s often the unknown that stresses us the most.

The talk may also allow you to express any special wishes you have that are not specifically included in your Will. And, you may gain better insight into what different family members value and want. A conversation about your finances and wishes will help to clarify who to contact, and how to pay for basic expenses, as well as your funeral, when you pass.

One of the most contentious aspects of settling an estate can be the distribution of personal property like family jewellery, art or special collections, whether worth a lot or just of sentimental value.

Here are five ways to reduce the stress of these conversations:

#1: Identify potential hotspots

Think very carefully about what you plan to do with your assets and why. Do your research and speak to your lawyer about what’s possible and what’s not. Identify areas that could be touchy subjects.

For example, do you have a child you plan to leave more to than others? This could be because that child has a disability requires additional financial assistance or because that child is a single mother on a low income, whereas her sister is a lawyer married into a wealthy family.

Are you planning to make certain arrangements to protect your heirs? Perhaps one has a drug problem or can’t manage his or her financial affairs very well. Or, another is in a rocky marriage and you don’t want your hard-earned money being split with that child’s spouse.

It’s important to plan how you will broach these topics in your discussion with your family, if at all.

Giving good reasons for these decisions and getting buy-in now from everyone could avert problems later on, if they only hear about your plans when you are gone.

#2: Have a game plan

Decide whether you want to talk to each child separately, rather than addressing everyone as a group. If you choose the group route, will it be one discussion or a series of discussions?

Consider who should be involved in these meetings. In addition to your adult children, should you include adult or teenage grandchildren? Should spouses also be invited?

Proper planning can go a long way to keeping peace. Before the talk, determine