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How to talk to a loved one about an estate plan

An estate plan is something that everyone needs, but most people don’t want to talk about. That’s because it deals with an uncomfortable subject: death. For that reason, it can be especially hard to suggest that someone else such as a parent or a spouse needs an estate plan.

Recently, a Boston news station featured a story on this very topic. The story suggested that the best way to start the conversation is by saying that you saw an article on estate planning and that you think it might be wise for the loved one to get his or her “affairs in order.”

If the loved one agrees, the next step is to make an appointment with an estate planning lawyer, and ask the loved one if he or she would like you there for support. Discussing an estate plan and end of life options can be very stressful on a person, which is why it’s good to have someone there for support.

You might also want to prep your loved one on what he or she can expect when meeting with the estate planning lawyer. You can use the following explanations of common estate planning tools for assistance:

Will: A will is a simple estate planning device that allows a person to leave assets to certain people or entities when they die. Wills are usually not very expensive to create.

Trust: If there are complicated issues, such as a second or third marriage, a lot of assets or privacy concerns, a living trust is definitely something to consider. This allows the trust creator to transfer funds without going through the lengthy and public probate process.

Durable power of attorney: This nifty tool allows a person to give someone else the power to make legal and financial decisions on their behalf while they are still alive but incapacitated.

Health care proxy: Under Massachusetts law, a person can appoint a health care proxy to make medical decisions on their behalf. It’s similar to a durable power of attorney, but deals with health-related decisions.

Discussing estate planning options can be stressful, but it can be much easier when working with an experienced and compassionate estate planning lawyer. Once the plan is in place, everyone’s mind can be put at ease.

Source: CBS Boston, “All About Estate Planning,” Dee Lee, June 13, 2014

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