12 Questions to Ask an Estate Planning Attorney BEFORE Working With Them

I often get asked, “How much does it cost to do an estate plan?”

It’s difficult to answer that question without understanding more about your family, your situation, and explaining more about our process.

If you called a contractor and said, “I want to build a house. How much will it cost?” would he be able to say right away? Not if he’s a good contractor. There are too many variables when it comes to building a house. There is no way someone could accurately quote a flat rate to build one. In the same way, the cost of an estate plan depends on the type of plan you create and the goals you are trying to accomplish.

We understand that you need to know the cost before making a decision (and we make sure ALL of our clients clearly know the cost before moving forward). However, before you start talking about cost, there are some important questions to ask the attorney first. Keep reading to learn about other vitally important factors to consider when choosing an attorney to create an effective estate plan.

​12 Questions You Should Ask an Estate Planning Attorney BEFORE Asking About Cost

  1. Do you regularly deal with estate planning?
  2. How do you define estate planning?
  3. How do you take advantage of technology?
  4. Do you approach each client as a unique individual?
  5. How can I be sure my plan will work?
  6. Will you help me have hard conversations with family members, if needed?
  7. How will you coordinate my assets with my legal plan?
  8. Will you work closely with my other advisors?
  9. How can I make sure my plan stays up-to-date?
  10. What is your record with regards to probate?
  11. What happens if something happens to you?
  12. Is your staff experienced?

Let’s Break These Questions Down…

1. “Do you regularly deal with estate planning? What other areas of practice do you have?”

We believe it’s best if an attorney focuses on estate planning. That’s why I set up our firm the way I did. I wanted a group of people dedicated ONLY to estate planning so we can create the most effective plans possible for the families we serve.

2. “How do you define estate planning? What is your counseling philosophy?”

Some attorneys see their primary role as filling in the blanks on a document. You’ll notice I use the phrase “Counselor-at-Law” after my name, and that’s important. We help guide our clients to make the best choices possible for their unique situation.

3. “How do you use technology to create customized wills and trusts?”

While it’s true you don’t want a boilerplate will (and some attorneys use technology to just fill in the blanks), there are things that technology can do to help us create better, more accurate plans for our clients.

4. “Do you have a system in place to ensure that each client is approached on an individual basis with their unique needs being addressed?”

Every family is different, and each one has challenges that make planning a highly personal process. You and your loved ones deserve a plan that takes your unique circumstances into account, properly protecting what you’ve worked so hard for.

5. “How can I be sure my plan will work the way I expect it to after I’m gone?”

It’s a dirty little secret of the industry, but many attorneys make their money after the plan they created doesn’t work properly and moves into probate.

6. “Are you capable of supporting my choices in conversations with aging parents or adult children and grandchildren if I need it?”

Some conversations around planning can be very difficult. It helps to have an experienced 3rd party to help facilitate them.

7. “How will you coordinate my assets and finances with my legal plan?”

Some attorneys help create a plan, but then don’t take the next step necessary to make sure the plan will work properly. One of the most important aspects of this is asset coordination. It’s so important, we have TWO people in our office dedicated to it.

8. “Will you work closely with my other advisors?”

In order to create the most effective plan possible, it is important that your financial advisors, CPAs, attorney, etc. work together to make sure everyone sees an accurate big picture so your plan can address everything it should.

9. “How will I keep my estate plan up to date?”

Is it up to you to call the attorney when you think changes need to be made? Or does the attorney have a system to make sure your plan stays current? Effective estate planning is not a one-and-done process. Read more about keeping your plan up to date here.

10. “What is your record with regards to probate?” What percentage of your trust-based plans wind up in probate? (Remember #5 above!)

11. “What happens if something happens to you?” Are there other attorneys who will help? Do you have a contingency plan?

12. “Do you have experienced staff to help with my planning?”

The staff will be key in your dealings with the firm, so you want them to be as top-notch as the attorney. Read about our dedicated team here.

So, what are my next steps?

If you’re dealing with a top-notch professional — one who provides quality, custom services to each and every client and who values integrity above all else — then they cannot give you an honest answer about how much it costs for an estate plan without a thorough assessment of your unique circumstances.

This is why we encourage everyone to attend our free monthly seminar, “Wills & Trusts: How to Get Started.”

Not everyone is a good fit to work with us. We tend to do things differently around here, and we want to be sure people are comfortable with ALL aspects of planning before moving forward. The more you trust us, the better educated you can become about planning, and that means we can do a better job of protecting you and your family.

If you’ve been thinking about planning, but are still hesitating, we encourage you to come to our next workshop. Just call 217-726-9200 to save yourself a spot.

Unhappy With Your Will? 6 Reasons Why That Might Be…

You took that big step. You found an attorney and you finally got a Will. So why don’t you feel better?

You should be experiencing peace of mind, but instead you’re still experiencing that nagging worry at the back of your mind.

Unfortunately, this happens to a lot of people. And we find that super frustrating. Working on an estate plan can be uncomfortable and hard, so when you finish the process you should feel great about taking a step to protect your loved ones!

Why do so many people walk away from the experience frustrated and still worried about the plan they created?

Here are 6 reasons people are unhappy with their plan:

These are just a few of the things we’ve heard over the years.

  1. “The attorney didn’t listen to me.” Sadly, this is quite common. Many attorneys just do what they do, without much concern for the humans sitting in front of them. Just the other day a client told me about a bad experience at another attorney’s office. When the family tried to tell the attorney they were uncomfortable with the way things were going, the attorney replied, “Well, that’s just the way we do things around here.”
  2. “I couldn’t understand what the attorney was talking about.” So many lawyers speak in a language people can’t understand. And if you can’t understand the person talking to you, then you certainly can’t effectively communicate with them to create a plan that will accomplish your goals. A few months ago I met with a very intelligent person who brought me their existing plan because they couldn’t really understand the attorney who had drafted it for them!
  3. “The attorney seemed to care more about the documents than my family.” An effective plan focuses on the people the plan will protect or help. The documents created during the process are just a tool. They should be carefully examined and customized for the people they will serve. They should not be the most important part of the process.
  4. “It was just a fill-in-the-blank form. Couldn’t I have done that myself?” Again, like in No. 3 above, the focus of the process should be the family and the people that will be helped by the plan. While you can’t have an estate plan without documents, they should not be the primary focus of the planning process. The values and the goals of the people creating the documents should determine the plan.
  5. “I don’t even understand what I signed. How do I know these documents will do what they’re supposed to do?” So many lawyers focus on the law and the documents used in the estate planning process that many people leave confused about what they just signed. Often there is confusion about when those documents will be effective and what they will do. Some people don’t understand that there are more things they may need to do when they walk out of the lawyer’s office, and if they don’t do them then their plan won’t work when the time comes! We HATE seeing this.
  6. “I now have the right ‘documents,’ but it doesn’t feel like I have the right ‘plan.'” When you create an effective plan that accomplishes your goals, takes care of your family, and everything you’ve worked so hard for, then you should feel relieved! You should feel proud of yourself for taking such a big step, and you should feel peace of mind knowing it’s take care of. If something doesn’t feel right, then it’s probably not. Listen to that little voice and get a second opinion.

So, What Can I Do If I’m Unhappy With My Will?

Unfortunately, poorly created estate plans are a reality for some people — but we can help. In addition to creating effective estate plans every day, we also help people with the aftermath of poorly created plans, and we help people redraft existing estate plans that will give you peace of mind and meet all your needs.

This is part of the reason I started my own law firm back in 2008. I wanted a firm focused solely on clients and estate planning. I wanted the plans we created to help families when they needed it most. And I wanted to do so effectively, making things easier for families, not harder!

At Edwards Group, our process is a bit unique, but we like to cover ALL THE BASES for families who are spending the time and resources on creating a plan to protect their loved ones and the things they’ve worked so hard for in this life.

If you’d like to learn more about effective planning and how the process works, we’d love to meet you at an upcoming workshop. Just call 217-726-9200 to save yourself a spot! Or you can view a video here where I talk about what to expect during the planning process.

Review These 3 Things Before Traveling This Summer

Summer is a popular time for road trips and traveling. While you pack and prepare your house, consider double checking your estate plan before you go.

Check These 3 Things Before Traveling

  1. A Plan for Minors – if you have children under the age of 18, it is important to make sure you have proper documentation for temporary (vacation) guardians and long-term guardians. This is especially important if you will be traveling without them this summer.
  2. Healthcare POA/Incapacity Documents – unfortunately, accidents can still happen on vacation! Especially if driving is involved. You want to make sure documents like your healthcare power of attorney are up-to-date. It is also good to make sure your end-of-life wishes have been recorded. If you are an organ donor, you want to make that clear.
  3. Inform Someone of Your Plan – creating an effective plan can’t happen if the right people don’t know about the plan. Before traveling, make sure you’ve made your “helpers” aware of your plan. This includes potential guardians, healthcare POAs, and executors. Make sure they know where your documents are located. You also want them to be aware of any special instructions they’ll need to know (like if you’re an organ donor).

We always hope these things won’t be needed during a trip or vacation. However, if an unfortunate accident happens, it will be much easier on your loved ones if you’ve prepared and planned ahead.

Effective estate planning is an invaluable gift to the important people in your life. It will bring you peace of mind knowing you made a lot of the hard choices for them. Along with vacation memories, peace of mind is one of the invaluable things in life.

If you or a loved one are ready to take that step and get started planning, we encourage you to:

  1. Attend an upcoming workshop or
  2. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to schedule an Initial Meeting

Getting started with planning can be hard! We make getting started a little easier.

Estate Planning is Like… Visiting a Doctor

“My toe hurts!” That’s what I told the emergency room doctor when I was about 2.5 years old. (I’m the baby in the picture, just a little before this story happened.)

My granddad was headed to the grocery store, and I wanted to go with him. I didn’t have shoes on, but he figured he could just carry me into the store.

Well, as 2-year-olds often do, I wanted to get down and walk on my own. As we were leaving the store, I stepped in front of the automatic door and it cut my foot — right between the little toe and the next toe. So here we were at the ER.

The doctor, trying to be kid-friendly, said in that funny voice most adults use when trying to build rapport with kids, “Ohhhh, do you have an owie?”

Wanting none of that nonsense, I looked him square in the eye and said in an angry voice, “My toe hurts!”

It’s one of those family stories that gets told at gatherings quite often.

When Does It Help to Consult a Professional?

So, what does all this have to do with estate planning?

I love connecting everyday things to estate planning. Read my other analogies here.

Well, when you get hurt you go to the doctor for help.

When you need help with wills, trusts, and elder law issues, you should consult with an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney.

Attending one of our workshops is a great way to find out if we’re a good fit to work together. At our introductory workshop, “Getting Started With Wills & Trusts,” you’ll learn about the basics of effective planning, and what you can do to make sure you develop a plan that will do what you want it to when the time comes. You’ll also learn about how our firm works, and there’ll be time to ask me questions.

Click here to see upcoming dates and then give us a call 217-726-9200 to RSVP or schedule an Initial Meeting.

Living Longer: It’s a Blessing, If You’re Prepared

Here’s some good news: people are living much longer these days! So much so that there’s a new field in estate planning. It’s called Life Care Planning. This type of planning doesn’t focus solely on a “death plan.” Instead, it focuses on using strategies to make the last decade of life a little easier and less stressful.

In this 4-minute video, Attorney David Edwards talks with NewsChannel 20 about the benefits of Life Care Planning. If you’re over 55 and concerned about the challenges you’ll face as you age — from paying for long-term care to protecting your hard-earned assets — you should consider putting together a Life Care Plan. It will give you peace of mind knowing you’ve successfully prepared yourself for the extra years you may experience.

We’d love to help you with this process. Give us a call at 217-726-9200. We can answer questions and help you set up an Initial Meeting. We hope to hear from you soon!

long-term care insurance

Should I Buy Long-term Care Insurance?

The outrageous cost of care is one of the biggest risks to those getting older. This question looms large in the mind of many who are of retirement age…

How will I (we) pay for care costs?

And many clients ask us…

Should we buy long-term care insurance?

There is a lot of confusion and fear around the long-term care insurance industry, but we still believe that long-term care insurance is the #1 best way to protect yourself from exorbitant care costs.

When we see a client who needs care and has long-term care insurance, it is usually a big relief! Their family already has plenty of things to sort out as far as the details of the care and the medical needs that are happening. When it comes to how to pay for it, all they do is sit back and let the insurance company write the checks. It’s a big load off for the family! And they get to focus on other important things during a really difficult time.

There are legal tools, like Nest Egg Trusts and VA and Medicaid benefit planning, that can be used to help plan for care costs. Long-term care insurance is just another financial tool that can be used. Some clients rely mostly on the legal tools and some rely mostly on the financial tool of long-term care insurance. Some clients rely on both types of tools — a kind of “belt and suspenders” approach to planning. We generally believe the more tools you have in the toolbox, the more effectively you can build a planning strategy.

How Does Long-term Care Insurance Work?

The industry has been in flux recently, creating a lot of fear around this topic. Currently, there are two types of long-term care insurance. One is kind of on its way out, and the other is more effectively addressing the problems that have emerged in the industry.

  1. Traditional long-term care insurance. You pay a premium on this policy, and when you need care, the insurance company pays so much a day or so much a month, for so many months OR until a set maximum amount of money is used up. (Some old policies have unlimited benefits, but in more recent years insurance companies have stopped selling the unlimited benefits kind.) With the traditional LTC insurance, what happens if you don’t need care? Do you get your money back? No, the insurance company keeps your money, and you’re out of luck. (Except in very rare and unique policies.)
  2. Hybrid long-term care insurance. This is a life insurance policy that has a special rider to allow you to tap into the money prior to death in order to pay for care. If you don’t end up needing long-term care, then the money goes to your family or beneficiaries just like life insurance would. Most people who buy LTC insurance these days are getting the hybrid type.

There are very few companies still selling traditional policies, and most people prefer the hybrid policies anyway, so there isn’t nearly as much risk as there used to be for the consumer. After some bumpy times, it appears as though the industry has figured out a better way to stay in business and provide a service to clients.

Should I Buy LTC Insurance?

Yes, it is a great idea for most people. If you can qualify medically, and if you can afford it, it is certainly something we urge you to strongly consider. As you age or as you begin to develop more health issues, the policies get more expensive. At some point, you may not be able to get a policy at all.

It is generally a good idea to consider buying LTC insurance in your 50’s or 60’s. It’s not necessarily too late if you’re in your 70’s, but it really depends on your health.

One great thing about LTC insurance is that it provides resources to pay for care at home. Care at home is very limited under Medicaid benefits, and yet the majority of people we speak to have strong preferences about staying at home as long as possible. You can get care at home under VA benefits, but sometimes the VA benefits are not enough to pay for all the care that is needed. A good LTC insurance policy will let you get plenty of care to stay at home as long as possible while you continue to age.

If you don’t qualify for LTC insurance, then you may want to pursue legal options such as a Nest Egg Trust to protect your assets and help you more easily qualify for future benefits that will help pay for care.

If you do qualify for LTC insurance, you may still want to consider a Nest Egg Trust as additional protections.

Over 55 years old? Here are three things you should know about nursing home care.


How Do I Check Into LTC Insurance?

If you are interested in checking into LTC insurance, you should chat with your financial advisor who can explain the various policies available. They can tell you some general options and estimated prices based on your situation.

To get more specific pricing and see if you qualify, you will need to go through underwriting. This involves a medical check up (such as taking blood samples, blood pressure, etc.) and also giving the insurance company permission to get copies of your medical history. Once the insurance company has this information, then they can give you a more specific price quote and options, which you can discuss with your financial advisor.

One last thing… WE DO NOT sell insurance. We are a law firm. However, we are familiar with a lot of advisors and can often recommend someone if you don’t have an advisor you’re already working with. Just give us a call at 217-726-9200.

7 Risks of a Simple Will

Creating online legal documents is becoming more and more common. Despite the convenience of creating a Will without the expense and hassle of meeting with an attorney, there are many pitfalls to creating a simple plan online or even with a more traditional attorney who is just “filling in the blanks” of an already created document.

At Edwards Group, unfortunately, we deal with the problems that arise from simple fill-in-the-blank Wills everyday.

Here are 7 risks of a simple will that you need to consider:

1. Long, expensive probate. Wills are designed to go through probate. The extra expense, delay, and public exposure that go with a court probate process may be avoided when other estate planning tools are used in connection with a Will. Depending on the unique family circumstances that only you know about, avoiding probate may be a good goal to have. An experienced attorney with a comprehensive approach can help you know if avoiding probate should be a priority for you and your family.

2. Unprotected assets. Many Wills do not have adequate provisions for protecting the inheritance you leave your loved ones. Risks such as future divorces, lawsuits, warring siblings, and future financial struggles of your heirs can be mitigated with proper planning ahead of time. Experienced attorneys who practice comprehensive planning can help identify what risks your family may face.

3. Problem executor. Is the executor you chose in your Will the best person for the job? Circumstances can change. Will the responsibility be a struggle for them because of a busy schedule, lack of attention to detail, or inexperience? Our process helps our clients choose the best person for the job, and then keeps the choices updated.

4. Lack of coordination. Is your simple will coordinated with ALL of your beneficiary designations, joint ownership and account titling? Unless you are very intentional about your financial organization, the way you have set up accounts and insurance policies could undo the wishes stated in your Will. It can also cost your loved ones huge amounts of time and money to sort out.

5. Unexpected change in outcome. Have your life circumstances changed since your Will was drafted? Have you gotten married, divorced, had children or grandchildren since your last will was drawn up? Is your wealth greater or less than it was before? If so, any of these factors can impact how things will play out if your old or simple will has to be used. I have even seen grandchildren not get an inheritance that other grandchildren received because of this very thing.

6. Nothing left. Have you planned for possible nursing home costs? Even if your old will if okay right now, your wishes could be undone if high nursing home costs eat up most or all of your savings prior to your death. There is a lot that an experienced elder law and estate planning attorney can do for this situation.

7. Doesn’t do what you think it will.  Laws change frequently. If there have been changes to the law (or even the tax law) since the drafting of your will, this can cause complications or unintended consequences.

The traditional way of preparing a will is oftentimes ineffective. Sadly, many people don’t find this out until it’s too late — and they’ve literally lost the family farm or fishing cabin. Here at Edwards Group, we don’t just fill in the blanks of a boilerplate document. Our process was designed to overcome the pitfalls of traditional planning.

If you’d like to read more about our unique process and how it protects our clients and their loved ones, click here. If you’re ready to schedule your Initial Meeting and get started with effective, comprehensive planning, give us a call at 217-726-9200.

A Quick Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Family History

With the world going digital, it may seem old-fashioned to print a book about your family’s history. But the truth is, a screen can never replace the experience of flipping through pages of pictures and stories about your loved ones.

We know this on a gut level, but it’s also backed up by a lot of research—we form strong emotional connections with print books, not so with screens. Consumer behavior proves it too: sales of print books continue to rise (especially among Millennials!) and sales of ebooks have flatlined (check out Revenge of the Analog for more on this topic).

But how do you write a book? It’s a daunting task. In this post, we’ll explore a few options that will make it easier for you.

Hire a Writer

This is by far the easiest option for you, but it will also be the most expensive. Ask friends, family, and colleagues if they know a good, professional writer. Personal recommendations will usually lead to the best working relationship.

If that doesn’t work out, you can use a site like Upwork.com. On Upwork, you post the specifics of your writing project, writers respond with price quotes, and you pick the one you want to work with. You can see the writers’ ratings, reviews, and testimonials. Prices range from $20 – $100+ per hour.

Hire an Editor

This option is less expensive than hiring a writer, but it’s a bigger time investment on your part. You’ll need to present the editor with a finished book. Thankfully, your book won’t need to be perfect. It’s the editor’s job to whip it into shape for you, so if you give them something to work with they can take it from there.

Just like hiring a writer, tapping into your network is the best way to find an editor. Use Upwork.com if that doesn’t work out. Prices range from $15 – $50+ per hour.

Pay to be Prompted

For $79 (as I write this, there’s a holiday special price of $59), Storyworth.com will send you a story prompt each week for one year. You’ll write or record your response. At the end of the year, Storyworth will put your responses together in a hardcover, black & white book, which they’ll print and ship to you (all included in the $79 price). You can buy as many additional copies of the book as you’d like, and you can upgrade to a color book for an additional fee.

The questions they present are interesting, and aren’t things you would think of on your own. Buying a year of Storyworth for someone else (like Grandma or Grandpa) is a great way to prompt them to tell their stories and get it written and/or recorded for posterity.

Write It Yourself

This is the hardest but most fulfilling option. You may think you’re not a writer, but as famous PBS painter Bob Ross said, “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything you’re willing to practice, you can do….I really believe that if you practice enough, you could paint The Mona Lisa with a two-inch brush.” I think he’d apply that sentiment to writing too.

Let’s say you’ve finished your book, how do you get it printed? I recommend Amazon KDP or lulu.com. They both offer great pricing and lots of size options. Pricing per book can be as low as $2.15/each (100-page, black & white) up to about $14/each (for a 200-page book in color).

Setting your book up on these platforms can be a bit technical. Lulu.com will offer more customer service help than Amazon. But don’t let this stop you—you can easily hire someone to do the setup process for you. Once your book is published, anyone in your family can order their own copy and have it shipped directly to them.

In the end, all your hard work will be worth it. There’s nothing quite like pulling a copy of your family’s history right off the bookshelf. (My grandfather left us such a gift.) It’s a priceless experience for you and generations to come.

For more on preserving your family’s legacy, check out this blog post: Recording and Transcribing Family Conversations on Your Smartphone.

transcription, transcribe, family legacy

Recording and Transcribing Family Conversations on Your Smartphone

With all the holiday gatherings coming up, this is the perfect time of year to get around the table and record your family’s stories. Smartphones have made this easier than ever: turn on a voice record app, set it in the middle of the table, and start asking grandma and grandpa questions about their lives.

Having your loved one’s voice recorded for posterity is wonderful—it’s  amazing to think that one day your grandkids will have the chance to hear your grandfather’s voice! But you can do more with these recordings than just listen to them. You can easily turn them into text, creating a readable, searchable history of your family, and maybe even a book (like Attorney David Edwardsgrandfather did).

Two Benefits of Turning Audio into Text

Readable: When you have hours of recordings from several loved ones, it can be daunting and time-consuming to listen to all of it. Converting their words to text, allows you to read through it much faster (2-3x as fast, depending on how fast you read), and you can skim through it even faster than that.

Searchable: Many transcription apps allow you to search transcribed text. So if you remembered a story that grandpa told about being in Paris, you won’t need to dig through hours of recordings.You can search the text for “Paris” and you’ll see every spot where that word is mentioned. You can also copy and paste the transcriptions into Microsoft Word or Google Docs and do the same type of search.

How to Turn Your Recordings into Text

Transcribe Live. With this option your words will turn to text as you speak. You can do this for free on your iPhone and Android. The downside is the accuracy is mediocre, especially with several different speakers. And these options won’t save your audio, just the text.

  • For iPhones: open Notes, start a new Note, press the little microphone button, and you’re good to go. If you don’t see the microphone, turn on your Dictation setting under General Settings, Keyboard.
  • For Android phones: download the Google Docs app, open it, and press the microphone button.

Transcribe in an App. Transcription apps do it all: record your audio, transcribe it, and allow you to search and share the text. With lots of options available, I’ll only highlight the best apps on the market.

  • Otter (iPhone & Android) is free to download and will transcribe up to 600 minutes of recording for free each month. It transcribes live as you speak and is more accurate than the free options mentioned above. Otter also saves your audio and offers unlimited storage.
  • Rev (iPhone & Android) is the best of the best. The app is free to download and it’s free to record. Transcribing your recordings costs $1 per minute. So if you’ve got 10 minutes it’s $10. Rev is 99% accurate and transcription is done by humans, so you’ll get excellent punctuation and paragraphs.

Transcribe Old Recordings. You can import old recordings—from your iPhone Voice Memos or an Android app or any type of file on your computer—into Otter and Rev and they’ll transcribe it. Even if you have cassettes or CDs, you can turn them into a digital file (lots of online services will help you with this) and upload them into Rev or Otter.

Transcribe Phone Calls. I love this option because even though you may not get a lot of face-to-face time with your loved ones, you can still record your conversations and transcribe them.

  • Smart Record (iPhone only) will record your calls, then transcribe them. They charge $4.99/week or $9.99/month for call recording (you can cancel any time). You can then transcribe those recordings via machines (for $0.12/minute) or humans (for $1/minute).
  • Rev (iPhone & Android) lets you record calls for free and you can then pay to transcribe them ($1/minute). You could also download one of the many call recording apps, then upload your files into Otter for free transcription.

These apps and options might take a little time to learn, but it’s a worthwhile investment. Turning your conversations into text opens all kinds of options for preserving your non-financial legacy. Happy transcribing!


3 Tips for Preserving Your Family History This Thanksgiving

What story from your life or your parents’ life needs to be remembered?

Did your grandmother board a ship at the age of 15 and immigrate to America all by herself? Does your grandfather have great stories about the shenanigans that went on at the family farm? Was your uncle at the liberation of Dachau during World War II? (I have a friend who this is true for, but she was too young to hear about it while he was alive.) Oftentimes families have stories like these, but questions go unasked, answers and conversations about these things aren’t preserved, and adventures are left untold. In our increasingly disjointed society, it’s important for families to share stories.

We want to encourage you to take time this Thanksgiving (and the entire holiday season) — a time when families naturally gather around tables and tell stories — to preserve these stories that make up the unique tapestry of your family. With multiple generations under one roof, it’s a chance to dig into your history and discover what brought you to where you are now.

If you’re among the older generation, don’t be afraid to share your story. If you’re among the younger generation, be sure to actively listen when stories are being told. Turn off the football game for a bit. Put down the smartphones — you have a lifetime to look at screens but a limited time to preserve your past.

The process of telling your story may be uncomfortable at first. Our current culture leaves us ill-equipped for face-to-face interactions and deep conversation, but it’s worth pushing past the discomfort to get to the unique history only your family holds. With the help of the tips below, the discomfort should quickly pass. Here’s how to get the conversation rolling and preserve your parents’ or grandparents’ stories:

  1. Be intentional. Set aside specific time for this. Gather your parents or grandparents around the dining room table and tell them you want to hear their stories.
  2. Start with simple questions. Easy, fun questions break the ice and often lead to great stories. Begin with a few of these:
    • What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
    • Did you have a nickname as a kid?
    • Where did you go on vacations as a child?
    • What did you eat for lunch at school?
    • How did you meet mom or dad (or grandma or grandpa)?
  3. Record the conversation. Your smartphone probably already has a recording app (like Voice Memos on the iPhone), so use technology to your advantage. The digital age is great for easily sharing things like photos and recordings. Put your phone in the middle of the table and just let it record. Soon, everyone will forget it’s there, and you’ll have an invaluable souvenir of that moment in time.

If you wish you knew more about your grandparents’ stories, we encourage you to do something about it and start recording some of your unique life experiences so future generations can draw strength and wisdom from what you (or your parents) endured, accomplished, and valued. Family stories encourage us to move boldly in our own lives, helping us to uniquely understand who we are and how we got to where we are.

If you still have the chance to tell your story or to listen to the stories of your elders this holiday season, we don’t think you’ll regret it!! Watch on Facebook and in our upcoming email newsletters for more ideas on preserving your family legacy this holiday season.

If you’re ready to protect your family through effective estate planning and gain peace of mind knowing things will go as smoothly as possible when the time comes, give us a call at 217-726-9200 to schedule your Initial Meeting. We will be happy to help guide you through the process.