Necessary and tough family conversations – Daily News

on Jun30
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During the past few weeks, our Women, Money & Mindset series has focused on who in your life needs to be informed about matters that belong to you which may affect them in the future.

Items can include things like desires for oversight for fiscal and medical matters when you are no longer able to care for yourself, and inheritance decisions you have made about your estate holdings.

Family dynamics and communication patterns, however, may keep you from readily addressing these critical decisions. In fact, many avoid these conversations, fearing negative reactions or awkward feelings about your choices. As a result, when a major change within a family circle occurs, those affected will be caught by surprise. Hurt or angry feelings can arise not only about you but also toward the others within the circle that they feel have been “favored” by your decisions.

Sadly, many families experience rift and conflict that may never again be reconciled. What once felt like a warm and caring clan has now broken apart.

If you truly want to leave a legacy, consider getting the tough stuff out of the way so it’s a smoother future for your circle later on.

How then, can you get more comfortable with being uncomfortable? How do you approach these tough, but important conversations?

  1. Give the conversation the respect and importance it deserves. Set a time with the family member involved and have the conversation in a neutral place. Be sure it isn’t a noisy restaurant or other atmosphere that detracts from focusing on the importance of the conversation at hand.
  2. Tell those involved why you are having the conversation. Let your family member know that you have made plans for the future. Acknowledge that conversations around such a topic can be sensitive and that even though this may feel awkward, you want to leave them with peace of mind and fully equipped upon your passing or possible infirmity.
  3. Tell them why you are sharing now. Tell them that you would like to outline your wishes at this time so that in case they have questions, you can answer these to avoid confusion while you are still healthy and available.
  4. Be equipped. As you outline your desires, be sure you provide copies of any directives or a copy of where to find important papers and the names of any professionals you may have appointed to oversee the process.
  5. Prepare to listen. Ask them if they have any questions and reassure them that you will keep them (or the files!) updated in case of further business pertaining to them. Tell them you are available to talk more about it if they need to do so.

Talking about your eventual passing or possible infirmity is delicate and many do not want to conduct a conversation around the subject, feeling it can be depressing. Quite the opposite! Assume the courage and responsibility to back up your decisions by sharing these details with those who will be affected is the key to your family’s future cohesiveness.

By sharing with those affected at the appropriate time, you provide your family with the knowledge they need to plan. You also remain on hand to manage conflict, any misunderstandings or hurt feelings resulting – an important gift.

Make sure your wishes are honored while releasing your loved ones from the concern of having to make some difficult emotional and decisions. Set the tone while keeping things on the bright side as you share your plans, and follow up in writing to help clarify. You are uniquely positioned to leave a positive and caring legacy for your family by doing so.

Patti Cotton works with executives, business owners, and their companies, to elevate and support leadership at all levels. Her client roster includes privately-owned businesses and such entities as Bank of America, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Harvard University, Sysco, Edward Jones, Morgan Stanley, Girl Scouts of America, and more. Contact her via email at

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