Nobody likes to think about the fact that they’re going to die — and your adult children certainly don’t relish the prospect of your passing. That sometimes makes it tough to address some very important issues, including your estate plans.

Just the same, it’s essential to have this conversation with your children early if you want to avoid both family drama and unintended problems with your end-of-life requests. Here are some tips that can help you have “the talk” with your kids:

  1. Schedule a family meeting. Don’t try to sandwich this conversation in when the kids are visiting over the holidays or one at a time. Get everyone together expressly for this purpose.
  2. Have a plan for what you want to discuss. Make a list of all the important topics and work through it. That’s the best way to make sure that nothing is forgotten or that the conversation derails around side topics.
  3. Be clear about your reasoning. Some of your decisions may take your kids by surprise. Explaining the basis for your decisions can help your kids process the information better and be more accepting. For example, maybe you chose your youngest son to have your medical power of attorney instead of the oldest (who expected to have that authority). Explain that your youngest child lives closest and has the best capacity to respond in an emergency.
  4. Talk about the small stuff. When there’s war over a parent’s estate, it’s often over things like the family heirlooms and grandma’s rings. Address the personal property, how it is to be divided and any special designations you may have made.

If you approach this conversation the right way, it’s an opportunity that can allow your family to feel united, not torn apart, when your time comes. It will make their memories of you sweeter and leave them more connected to each other — and that’s an admirable goal for any parent to have.