The Turkey Technique

November 6, 2019

Some of us look forward to Thanksgiving all year long – the beautiful bird, the stuffing, the pumpkin pie, the rare reunion with family members from afar. For others, ‘tis the season of awkward encounters with distant relatives, forced small talk, and the occasional inappropriate question that borders on the offensive. (Just remember: each family is unique, and no family is perfect!)

For us here at OC Estate & Elder Law, we are passionate about Thanksgiving and family holidays in general. We see Thanksgiving as a good time to talk about estate planning. If you’re looking for something to substitute for stuffy silence around the turkey this year, may we suggest the Turkey Technique? This technique means using food as a conversation starter about everyone’s plans for the end of their life.

Sound a little more morbid than your typical “pass the bread” banter? We agree. But the reality is that you and your family need to talk about your financials, end of life wishes, and estate plans…or lack thereof. You can’t put it off forever, and Thanksgiving represents one of those rare opportunities when the whole family is gathered in the same room. The key is to approach the topic with a friendly and non-combative tone. Remind everyone that this conversation must happen sooner or later, and since none of us know what might happen between now and next Thanksgiving, it’s best to seize the opportunity this year. Open discussion can alleviate tension, anxiety and avoid bickering over what family members can expect to inherit. Having an open dialogue with your family sooner rather than later can save your family lots of money and heartache down the road.

Next time you gather around the Turkey table to enjoy some friendly banter, use the Turkey technique to start the estate planning conversations. This means finding a good moment (often during cocktails and appetizers or following the meal while everyone is still seated) to bring up estate planning. Here is a list of talking points to help you get started:

  • Tell your family that you are working on an estate plan and ask if they have any input. Your children will be grateful to know that their parents are receptive to their ideas.
  • If you have already created your estate planning documents, let your family know what documents you have completed. The basics of an estate plan often include a Revocable (“Living”) Trust, Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, and a Health Care Surrogate and Living Will. Say something like “Here is a folder containing copies of my estate planning documents. Keep it someplace handy and if you like, my attorney can forward you a digital copy.” Always let your loved ones know where you store the originals of these documents so they can access them in an emergency situation.
  • Let your family know how you will be allocating your property. This includes your home, other real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, life insurance policies, brokerage accounts, pensions, and even sentimental items such as jewelry and art. Letting your loved ones know what to expect after you are gone can prevent confusion and fighting in the future.
  • Disclose your assets to your family. Something along the lines of “Here is list of my assets along with a physical folder containing one statement from each credit card, debts you owe, logins and passwords to financial institutions, real estate deeds to your home and any other properties, copy of your life insurance policy, Medicare card, health insurance card, divorce decree, long-term care insurance, property insurance, pre (or post) nuptial agreements (which are common with 2nd and 3rd marriages), beneficiary designations, corporate documents, lease agreements, life insurance policies, annuities, and tax returns.
  • Discuss health care issues and your wishes for how you would like to live out your golden years. This means frank discussions about who aging family members will live with, the need for possible nursing home care, or an assisted living facility, how this will be handled financially, and lastly, your preferences regarding your funeral services, such as burial or cremation. The best time to discuss end of life care with your family is now, while you are healthy and thinking clearly.
  • Be sure to discuss a possible guardian for your minor children. Let your children know who you would like them to live with in case of the death of both parents. Children often want a say in who will end up caring for them if both parents are gone. Planning for the worst does not mean the worst will happen, it just means things will be easier in case it does.
  • Include your grandchildren. Grandchildren have a special bond with grandparents and including them in your estate plan by either leaving a monetary inheritance or a sentimental token of your love will create a lasting memory they can treasure forever.

The good news is that, beyond the preliminary conversation, you can leave most of the worrying to the estate planning professionals. Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or for a free consultation to get your family affordable and honest legal advice catered to your particular situation. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish and Russian.