When you get together with your relatives this holiday season, you may decide to avoid topics like politics and religion. To keep the peace, this is probably a good idea. But there’s one difficult topic that you might not want to avoid: estate planning.

Although talking about wills and advance directives might seem like a quick way to dampen the festive spirit, a family get-together around the holidays might be your best chance to make your plans known and to inquire about your relatives’ plans. Depending on your family dynamics, it may not be the easiest conversation to have, but if you want to prevent conflict down the road, it’s an important one.

Here are some tips to help you broach estate planning during the holidays.

Timing Matters

You probably don’t want to bring up your estate plan while you’re carving the turkey or opening presents. Pick a more suitable time – maybe when the family is sitting together to chat and snack.

Keep in mind, however, that no time may seem perfect for a hard conversation. Pick a reasonable time to bring up estate planning, but don’t let yourself make excuses for putting it off.

If you don’t want to catch people off guard, consider announcing that you want to discuss estate planning at a set time. This can help ensure that everyone who needs to be there is present and that they’re ready with any questions or concerns that they have.

Know What You Want to Say

Beating around the bush will only draw things out – and give Uncle Bob time to change the topic. When you bring up your estate plans, get to the point.

This will be easier if you plan what you want to say ahead of time. For example, do you want to explain who your beneficiaries will be or how you plan to divide your assets? Do you want to discuss your advance directive? Do you need to tell your family where your important documents are kept? Decide what you need to tell your family ahead of time and consider making a list so you won’t forget anything.

Be Tactful

While it’s good to be direct about your own plans, asking others about their plans can be trickier. You don’t want to offend your relatives, especially if that means they’ll refuse to discuss the matter.

If you want to ask your relatives about their plans – or encourage them to start making plans – you might want to start by talking about your own plans. For example, you could explain that you recently had your will made, and it’s done wonders to put your mind at ease. Then you can casually ask your relatives if they have had similar experiences.

You know your relatives. Think about how they might react and plan your conversation tactics accordingly. If you’re asking others, a one-on-one conversation may be more appropriate than posing the question in a group.

Anticipate Sensitive Issues

Does your family have a vacation cabin that everyone fights over? Or maybe you have a blended family, and this is a source of strife. If you know that your relatives are likely to fight over an issue, bring it up cautiously. Stay calm and organize a way for everyone to take turns speaking so the conversation doesn’t become a shouting match.

Also, while holiday get-togethers may be a good time to broach estate planning topics, don’t feel like to have to resolve everything right then and there. Plan a way to end the conversation and move onto another topic.

When you reside in Oregon, and you’re ready to proceed with estate planning, Skinner Law is here to help. Contact us to learn more.


9600 SW Barnes Road, Suite 125
Portland, OR 97225
Phone: (503) 719-6603