Talking To Your Family About Your Estate Plan

Whether you want to start talking to your family about your estate plan or will. Or you want to encourage a conversation with your parents or adult children to get their own estate planning ducks in a row, having a round table conversation about death can be a tricky subject to navigate.

Here's our top tips for how you can make edge your way towards having the hard chats or launch right in.

We've been playing a game called 'What Does It Looks Like After You Die'

Any speech is only as good as the first line and in my experience coming out of the blocks strong and with a bang is the only way to do it.  There will never be a good time (or the right time) to have a hard conversation - so don't try and sneak your way in.

I give you permission to embrace your inner Fiona and stir things up.

Script Suggestion*

"Your dad and I have been playing a game called 'What Does It Look Like After You Die..?' Now feels like as good a time as any to share what we've come up with..."

Know what you want to talk about

Before you launch into an estate planning conversation it's worth getting some things straight in your head first so you can speak calmly and confidently about the most important things.  If you think you'll be nervous or forget important information, make yourself a list (this also shows people you mean business!).

Allow time for people to ask questions - if you don't know the answers tell them you'll get the exact details so you can be sure you're giving them the right information.

Allow space for big feelings and opinions - having your whole conversation scripted out may feel safe, but it doesn't allow space for your family to express their concerns or worries about things you may not have considered.

Script Suggestion*

"There are a handful of things I really want to talk about so I've made a note of them, but when I'm done I'd like this to be a chance for everyone to express their concerns or worries (or unwavering support)."

Prepare for the shut down

I recently had a conversation with the daughters of a man who had died following a quick decline from a long illness "When he first got sick we kept asking if he had a will or if one of us were the power of attorney but he refused to talk to us about it," one said.

"But when he was in the hospital all he wanted to do was tell us about what he wanted to happen when he died," added the other.

"He could barely speak, he was so weak and we were so upset he'd given up, that we kept shutting down the conversation. It felt like if we didn't talk about it, it would stop the inevitable from happening," they tag-teamed each other.

"But the inevitable did happen and now we have no idea what he wanted, where any of his documents are, where his will is. We're totally flying blind and it's so stressful and sad."

When people love you, they're never as excited to play the "What Does It Look Like After You Die" game as you are (of course we both know if they come and hang out with me they'll enjoy the game too!).

Be prepared for your family to shut down the conversation and decide if you respect their decision or if you push on and help them understand that this is important to you.

Script Suggestion*

"I know this is a hard conversation to have but it's really important to me that you're not left trying to figure things out on your own. The other day I heard about these kids whose dad just died and I don't want that to happen to you [insert story above - because it's ALWAYS easier to use someone else as the scape goat!]

Know the details

Because your will isn't a secret weapon to be hidden in a drawer until after your death, you can take a copy along with you as a visual aid or take copies to use as handouts and refer to them during your conversation. That being said, it's a good idea to swat up on some basic legalese so you feel confident about what roles your family will fill on your death team and don't get bamboozled if they start trying to out smart you (remember you have all the smarts AND a strong will!!).

You can find a handy glossary of estate planning terms HERE

Script Suggestion*

"Our estate lawyer suggests you take a look through our will before you agree to be on our death team so I've bought you a copy to take home for some bedtime reading."


* Disclaimer: these are suggestions only. Modify the sentiment to suit your own personality and circumstances.


I fully understand and appreciate not every family is in the position to sit around and chat openly and honestly about what life looks like after they die, which is why we started our Death Coaching service. I'll help you facilitate the tricky, hard or confusing conversations with your family about what life will look like for them after you die so everyone is on the same page.

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