Just like fire drills in elementary school let students know what to do in the event of a fire, an estate planning “fire drill” helps your family know what to do after you die or become incapacitated. Holding this type of family meeting after creating your estate plan can be invaluable in the process of setting all your affairs in order. It can also help you answer any questions your family might have.
In this article, we discuss some of the elements of an effective estate planning “fire drill.” Keep these in mind as you and your family meet to discuss your estate plan.
1. Rehearse the Process
During your estate planning “fire drill,” tell your family to pretend that you have passed away. Let them walk through the process while you make corrections or clarifications.
While it might be hard for your family to imagine your death or absence, this conversation is a good opportunity to be open and honest about fears for the future or existing emotions. It will also help prepare your family for any obstacles or challenges they might face.
2. Instruct Your Family about Your Estate Plan
Your estate planning “fire drill” is also a great time to explain the different documents of your estate plan and instruct your family on how to use them after your death. Walk them through your will or trust, durable power of attorney, healthcare designations, and other materials to ensure they know the function and purpose of each.
You may also consider consulting with an attorney beforehand to ensure you fully understand the legal significance of each document.
3. Listen and Answer Questions
Perhaps the most important part of an estate planning “fire drill” is to listen and answer any questions your family may have. You may uncover some conflict or dispute that could impact your estate in the future. Or, you may discover that some revisions are needed to your estate plan after listening to your family’s discussion.
In either case, it is helpful to speak with an estate planning attorney for advice and legal counsel. If you are unsure of the answers to some of your family’s questions, an attorney can also help walk you through your estate plan so you can answer those questions adequately.