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Talking about money can be challenging under any circumstances, particularly when it involves questions of estate planning and inheritance. Your letter of intent can help you clarify your wishes for yourself and your family, but you'll want to find the appropriate time and way to broach the topic before your time comes.

While it's important to discuss your posthumous intentions, it may be difficult for your loved ones to think about your passing and imagine having to deal with questions of inheritance while grieving that loss. However, starting those conversations early will ultimately relieve you and them of a tremendous burden when the time comes.

Sharing Your Wishes

Once your letter of intent (LOI) is written, it's a good idea to share your wishes with your loved ones. Deciding when to introduce this topic is up to you; many have used the 40-70 rule as a guideline. Essentially, when your children are around the age of 40 and you're near 70, it's a good time to start talking about how you want to handle questions regarding medical care, assisted living, and estate plans.

Detailing your wishes and intended gifts in your letter of intent will provide clarity and guidance, giving them time to process the information and ask important questions about your choices. Then, they won't be left feeling adrift and confused as they struggle to address your estate details while coping with your loss.

Beyond discussing details such as where to find your will and other documents, along with power of attorney choices, you may also want to share specific heirloom bequests before your health declines. There's no need to cover the specifics of your will, but if there are any special items you're leaving to certain people, you may want to explain why. Sharing your point of view with family will allow everyone to understand and provide an opportunity to ask questions.

Finally, discuss your family governance plans with everyone who will be affected. If you've chosen co-executors of your will or there are complicated situations involving sensitive relationships or recent additions to the family, it's best to bring these up now. Better for everyone to speak with you directly about their concerns or uncertainties than to leave them to hash them out after you've passed.

Spell out your dreams for the family and what you hope for your family members beyond your death. When they understand that they are all integral players in a broader legacy, they'll feel more deeply bonded to you and to one another, and they'll have a richer understanding of their role in fulfilling your values and vision.

Taking Control of Your Legacy

Be prepared to have several conversations about your estate plan. You may want to sit down individually with each beneficiary of your retirement accounts or with family members to whom you've left a specific gift. However, it may be worth announcing your decisions with them as a group as well, depending on your family dynamic. Talking about these issues as a family will remind everyone that you're there to support one another. It's not just your financial legacy you're protecting by discussing your estate plan – it's the way you're remembered and the way your family treats one another after you've passed.

Remember that you're initiating these conversations for your family's benefit but not necessarily for their input. Ultimately, your goal is to provide for them and to make it easier to deal with these questions when you become ill or pass away. By considering your choices carefully, you can enter these discussions confident that you've made a plan that aligns with your wishes. As long as you communicate and you're willing to talk to them, they will come to respect your decisions and be grateful you've taken steps to support them emotionally.

Most important, this is a chance to shape the way you'll be remembered. By opening up about why you've made the decisions you have, you can share your most treasured values and hopes for different family members. Doing so allows them to understand you on a deeper level while you're alive and prepares them to fully appreciate the legacy that you've built for them.

For help planning your legacy, reach out to KeyBank experts who will provide assistance ensuring your family is taken care of for generations.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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