My family has always spoken very openly about our end of life wishes. Over the years, we have had numerous discussions about different issues relating to our end of life decisions and estate planning. Some such topics of discussion have included whether or not we would like to be kept on life support and whether or not we would like to be cremated.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I, as an estates lawyer, recognize the difficulty people experience engaging in conversations regarding this topic.
Reflecting on one’s mortality can in itself be difficult, and discussing it with one’s loved ones may seem unbearable (or at least unpleasant or uncomfortable). Perhaps this is because, as Mary Gresham, a clinical and financial psychologist in Atlanta, says, “talk of asset transfers and advance directives packs the double taboo of death and money”.
Regardless, it is not only important to consider these important questions (such as who and how you would like personal health care and property decisions made for you, what you would like done with your body on your death, and who you would like to be guardian of your children), it is also important to discuss your wishes with those that will be making the decisions for you.
There are a number of ways to make this conversation less daunting and uncomfortable. One article (which can be found here) suggests that celebrity deaths can be used to bring up the topic and then, “[a]fter having a friendly conversation about the latest with your loved one’s favorite celebrity, […]it’s a simple matter to turn the conversation back to your own situation.” If celebrity deaths aren’t your area of expertise, try to think of other more organic ways to lighten the mood and maybe even make the conversation a bit enjoyable.
Let’s face it, even if you are very comfortable with your mortality, life get’s busy. When given the choice to discuss various issues of importance in estate planning or to do, well, anything else, the “anything else” will in most instances win. That said, (not to belabour the point) it is an important conversation to have since not only will having the conversation give you piece of mind (hopefully), but it will also assist those required to make decisions for you in what is often a very difficult and emotional time for them.
On a final note, about a year ago David Mills shared a fun article with us which uses wit and sarcasm to demonstrate the importance of getting one’s affairs in order, which is well worth the read for a good chuckle before delving into the estate planning process.