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Monday, May 16, 2011

Four ways to motivate someone who is reluctant to make a will

Many of us have a loved one who simply won't make a will or incapacity documents (power of attorney and health care directive). The reluctance is generally not due to cost or the unavailability of legal advice, but is more due to emotional or personal reasons. This can be a real problem when the loved one has family issues, significant assets, a family business, cottage or blended family. It can even be a problem where there are no contentious issues.

How can we motivate a reluctant person to get on with estate planning and incapacity planning? Here are some ideas:

1.  Make it clear that estate planning is not something that is done just by rich people or those with complicated lives. Show that it's something we all should do. For example, point out something that has happened to a neighbour, friend or family worker, such as being admitted to hospital without anyone being in charge of health care decisions. Mention that the problem could have been avoided with some basic planning and use this as a springboard to a conversation about whether your loved one has put plans in place.

2.  Sometimes the reluctance can be due to not really knowing where or how to start, and you can help to kick-start it. Do your own planning and mention it as a positive experience that has led to peace of mind and a better understanding of your family issues and finances. Offer to refer your loved one to the lawyer or advisor who helped you.

3.  Appeal to the protective parent in your loved one. Point out that will planning is not talking about dying. It's talking about making sure your children will be looked after once you're gone. It's about making sure that you don't leave issues or problems that are going to cause disputes between them. Any parent who had the means to prevent a life-altering fight between the kids would probably do so if made aware of how to go about it.

4.  Invite your loved one to a seminar being put on by a local lawyer or financial advisor that will cover estate planning. Follow up with a coffee date or lunch to talk over what you heard at the seminar and encourage your loved one to plan his or her next steps in getting documents in place.

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