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Should I bring up estate planning over Thanksgiving?

Ah, the holidays. That happy time of year when Maryland families gather together to break bread, give thanks, share traditions . . . and discuss what happens when somebody dies?

If just the thought of the latter is enough to curdle your blood, perhaps it's time to reconsider your stance on estate planning.

No one is suggesting that Grandma's or Grandpa's estate plan — or the lack thereof — should become the topic at the Thanksgiving dinner table. But this time of year is reliably when most family members are gathered together under one roof, at least for a few hours. If handled with finesse, it can be a good time to broach a tough subject.

Realistically speaking, it's never pleasant to contemplate one's mortality. However, planning ahead for life's inevitable transitions has innumerable benefits to both the individual and his or her survivors.

Maybe this will be the year that you and your siblings can sit down with your aging parents after the kids are asleep to discuss their intentions for the future. You may be pleasently surprised to learn that mom and dad have been proactive and have begun the process already. Then it may only be a matter of discussing the specifics, e.g., location of long-term care policies and other estate-planning documents.

But far too often adult children learn to their dismay that their parents have never put in place any plans for the future when age or disability interfere with their ability to care for themselves. If that is the case, you can gently (remember that finesse is key here) nudge them in that general direction.

Now is also a good time to ask parents what their wishes are for their care in the future. Many may decide to age in place, but will need home modifications in order to facilitate this. Others may be willing to move to an assisted living facility. You could establish some conditions ahead of time that will indicate when that time is nigh.

A good way to start is by sharing your own estate plan with your parents. You do have one, don't you? Remember that it's far easier to get someone else to comply with something when you already have your own ducks in line.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Holidays, the Best Time to Discuss Important Family Estate Plans?," Christopher Burgess, accessed Nov. 17, 2017

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