In this edition of M&B Monthly…
- Letter From the President: Firm Update & Introduction to Feature Article
- Feature Article: Difficult Family Conversations, Written By John Boylston
- Join Us For Our Next Live Webinar!
- A Little About Us… Highlighting our Probate Paralegal, Tanya Hill, and Her Family Southern Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe
Letter from the President, Justin Martin
Dear M&B Family,
In this newsletter, we have a firm update to share about John Boylston, followed by an article that John wrote, titled “Difficult Family Conversations.”
John Boylston is transitioning out of the practice of law to pursue a non-legal career for a Seattle based multi-family office. While we’ll miss John dearly, we’re happy for his opportunity for him to land his dream job, focusing on a small handful of 10-15 families. John says, “Working with all of you at Myatt & Bell has been the highlight of my career!” John will service his existing clients and Justin Martin and Dina Weathers, along with the rest of the firm, will service John’s former clients and new clients needing work.
John, Dina, and Justin have committed to estate planning the same way so that we are virtually interchangeable, using the same staff, processes, flat fees, and approach to estate planning. While we each have different personalities, rest assured our processes and legal acumen is the same brand of Myatt & Bell, P.C. If you have any questions or concerns then please don’t hesitate to reach out directly to me in the same manner that you reached out to John. John will be with us into May and will continue to work in some capacity with us in the future.
With Myatt & Bell, P.C. dating back to 1960, we have uncountable experiences of walking with clients and their trusted fiduciary through the challenges of caring for an aging loved one in an honoring and respectful manner. In this article, John highlights some tips to initiate what often are inherently awkward conversations.
Justin R. Martin
Difficult Family Conversations
by John Boylston
There comes a time in life when we realize that a parent or spouse we love may pose a financial or physical danger to themselves or others. There is often tension, however, when we ask them to hand over the car keys or their checkbook. No matter how well-intentioned and how close the family is, these conversations can be difficult. While I am not a psychologist and do not have any training in family counseling, I have engaged in many difficult conversations like these, to the extent that the lessons I’ve learned from these experiences are helpful, I wanted to share them.
The first thing to think about is: Why I do feel the need to have this conversation now? In most instances, we are trying to protect our loved one from something. It may be something that happened recently. For example, they forgot to pay their bills, they’ve been in a couple of fender benders, or they have been scammed. Or it might be that we are afraid some unspecified bad thing will happen soon. Determining whether we are trying to protect them from repeat events now or potentially new issues in the future can help clarify our game plan.
Along these lines, it is also important to identify whether we are annoyed with them or disappointed that they don’t seem to be the person they used to be. I have seen children demand that mom hand over the checkbook because it’s “just easier if I do it for you.” While that may true. If annoyance, disappointment, and/or frustration are the emotions pushing you to start the discussion, then I recommend you really work through these feelings before you talk to your loved one. When we start a conversation from a negative emotional place, then any perceived defensiveness or resistance by the other person will often escalate us to anger, and we end up in an argument rather than a productive conversation.
Next, I think it is helpful to think ahead of time about whether the difficult conversation is meant to be the start of a longer discussion or whether we need to have an immediate change. If our loved one is already suffering negatively from their actions, then we need to act sooner and try to achieve more concrete results. For these conversations, it is important to have workable ideas to solve the problem and see if you can get their buy-in. Demanding a parent’s car keys without helping to implement a system for them to get out of the house and maintain some independence is not really fair to them. It’s easier to ask them to give something up when you are offering a workable and attractive alternative solution.
If we’re more afraid of future, but as yet unexperienced, problems, then we do not need to put undue pressure on the first conversation and expect to achieve everything right away. On this point, I recommend that you start these conversations years before they are needed. The families that I have seen go through this with the least friction are ones that had a plan for what to do decades before it was needed. The family talked through what factors to consider and when it would be time to start delegating tasks to the kids. If you have time, start the conversation as early as possible.
Once you begin, try to start the discussion as a conversation and maintain it as such throughout. Ultimatums rarely work, and even if they do, they lead to resentment and hurt feelings. Instead of demanding that your loved one change or give up some autonomy, try to genuinely talk with them about what is going on. Ask questions. Ask them to talk with you about what they are experiencing. Talk about your feelings, what you are observing, and your worries for them. Have the conversation from a place of love. These conversations come up when we are trying to protect someone we love from hurting themselves or others. Remember that you love them, no matter how difficult and obstinate they may be. You are asking them to let you help them. You are asking them to delegate some things to you. They may not be ready to delegate everything in the beginning, but find out if there are some areas where they will let you help them. I think it is important to ask whether you have their permission to help them rather than demanding that they give up control over something they have done their whole life. When done well and from a place of love, hopefully it will feel much more like a discussion than a confrontation.
Finally, for those on the receiving end of these conversations, it is harder for you than it is for your family. But they won’t see it that way. Try to call on your wisdom and experience to remember that they love you and really only want what’s best for you. If they are offering to manage your finances and drive you around, then you have earned the right to delegate those tasks to them. Let them do the hard work for you so that you can spend more time on the things you enjoy.
At the end of the day, these discussions are hard for every family, but they are important and we encourage you to start the conversation as early as possible.
Join Us For Our Next Live Webinar!
Twice a month we host a live online webinar that we like to call our “Living Room Chat”. We literally bring estate planning to your living room, how probate and trust administration works, how estate planning and tax planning go hand in hand, and offer a open question and answer time for any questions you may have. It’s a great opportunity to “Get Started” from the comfort of your home.
If you are interested in joining our next complimentary estate planning webinar, you can do so by clicking here.
Comments From Our Clients…
“I have been very pleased with the responsiveness, patience, and expertise of everyone I have dealt with at Myatt & Bell. I had a lot to learn about Trusts and other documents, so I had a lot of questions but was never made to feel out of place by asking. Clarity about scheduling and pricing is also much appreciated. Thank You!” – Jim E.
“…Want to thank you for the time you took with us and our daughters…you were very good at explaining the trust to them…we all came away feeling like we knew more what to expect and our daughters felt like they now know you a little bit, so that when the time comes, they can come to you for advice…” – Connie E.
A Little About Us…
Tanya Best Hill – Probate Paralegal
Most memorable place she has vacationed?
My family Yellowstone vacation has to be my most memorable to date. From staying on a farm with acres of land with horses and cattle, to the terrible cowboy coffee and best tasting steak ever, to the beauty that no words are sufficient to describe! This vacation was worth it’s weight in gold.
What are you currently reading?
I always have a couple of books going, currently: The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, Slow Travel and Read Dangerously by Azar Nafisi.
2022 marks your 20 year paralegal anniversary, do you plan to become an attorney and/or what do you enjoy about being a paralegal?
I love my support role and personal day-to-day interactions with clients. As long as I enjoy this work I don’t feel the need to go to law school and take the bar exam, but that option isn’t excluded.
Tanya’s Favorite Family Recipe: Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
- 2 1/3 C self rising flour
- 1 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 ¾ stick frozen butter grated into flour
- 1 ¾ C cold buttermilk
- Combine dry ingredients.
- Stir grated butter into dry ingredients with a fork and make a well in the middle of the mixture.
- Pour cold buttermilk in the center of the dry ingredients and gently fold buttermilk into mixture just until combined. (careful not to overmix)
- Rub baking sheet with garlic infused olive oil (or any oil/spray of your choosing. The garlic infused oil adds another layer of flavor).
- Separate dough into even portions and drop onto the baking sheet just touching each other. This helps them rise fluffy and the frozen butter and cold buttermilk create flaky pockets of buttery goodness.
- Bake 375 for 25 minutes or until golden brown
- Spread butter on top of biscuits right after taking out of the oven and lightly sprinkle sugar on top!
Families choose Myatt & Bell to design their estate plans with honest optimism and meticulous attention to detail.
Do you have feedback for us?
Our ask of you – continue to give us feedback about your experience with M&B, and tell us how we can improve and better meet your needs.
And, if you run into someone who needs help with a will or trust with honest optimism and meticulous attention to detail, tell them about Myatt & Bell, P.C.!