A Guide to Talking About Estate Planning

Shot of a three-generational family sitting together on a sofa at home

When it comes to estate planning, it’s probably not something you talk about often with friends and family. Let’s face it – talking about death and creating wills can change the mood (and fast)! However, your end-of-life wishes should be one of the most important conversations you have with your family.

Surprisingly, 2 in 3 (66%) Canadians have no idea what their spouse or parents’ end-of-life wishes are if they were to pass away – according to a 2020 Angus Reid commissioned by Willful. If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we should expect the unexpected. Therefore, scheduling time with your family to have this important discussion should be a priority.

Here are a few important steps to start the conversation:

Prepare a list of questions

To make sure that your conversation about estate planning is thorough and you don’t miss anything, download Willful’s Guide to End-of-Life Discussions.

Create a comfortable environment

It’s a good idea to create a comfortable environment to have a conversation about estate planning with your family. You might prefer to sit in a park or meet at a family member’s home (if COVID-19 restrictions allow). Whatever you choose, being in a pleasant environment could make the conversation easier to get started.

Start with a light topic

Is there ever a right moment to talk to your family about how you want your estate to be allocated? It’s a tough discussion to start, however you can ease into it by talking about how the pandemic has caused many people to think about what’s important to them. Then, you can start with some open-ended questions like “What do you want your legacy to be?” or “What are some heirlooms that are important to you?”

Share an interesting fact

Facts and stories can help talking about estate planning less awkward and scary, like: “Did you know that according to Willful, over 64% of Canadians don’t have a will and millions are out-of-date?” or, “A friend’s dad died without creating a will, and his family is still fighting about who should rightfully own some of his belongings.”

Listen and be empathetic

Your family members will probably have questions for you, so it’s important that you give them a chance to get clarification and tell you how they feel. They may even ask you to leave a certain cherished belonging to them.

Take a break in the conversation

Discussing the topic of death and estate planning can be gloomy and tiring. So, it’s a good idea to break up the conversation into a few smaller ones. This can lead to more manageable and productive talks.

Be realistic

Let your family and loved ones know that if you don’t have a will in place when you die, there are consequences. This may sound scary, however it’s true. Everyone should understand what happens to your estate if the unexpected happens and there is no will in place.

Let your family know how having a conversation helps them

Tell your family that having this critical conversation actually helps them because it means spending less time, costs and running around during the very difficult grieving process. And, they’ll also have peace of mind knowing the process and your wishes are taken care of.

Here are some more helpful tools from our partner at Willful to help with these conversations:

Preparing your family with a well thought out conversation is important so that everyone feels comfortable and reassured that there is a plan in place.


The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.

Online will service called Willful (“Willful”) provided by Final Blueprint Inc. (“Blueprint”) and offered through the website located at willful.co. Willful is not a law firm and does not provide any legal advice. If you need legal advice for your specific matter, or if your matter is too complex to be addressed by its tools, you should consult a licensed lawyer in your area.