In Sherry Turkle’s book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk In A Digital Age, she writes about the process of the virtuous circle of communication by discussing the poet, Henry David Thoreau’s moving to Waldon Pond to live more deliberately. Thoreau furnished his cabin with three chairs. One chair to represent solitude, where he could self-reflect on matters most important for him. Two chairs to engage in conversation where he could express his thoughts to another. During these  conversations, he could process information and gain new insights that better prepared him for self-reflection. All three chairs were set for a conversation with the larger community to allow for a broader awareness heading back to self-reflection. Thus, the virtuous circle that allows us to define and redefine our thoughts.

Estate planners can provide guides for each client to sit in self-reflection and consider for themselves what is most important with respect to healthcare and quality-of-life choices, as well as how to plan their financial estate. Once the plan is established, the attorney can facilitate a family meeting where the client expresses feelings and introduces the plan to family members, who can express their thoughts. The client then can self-reflect in solitude with this additional information preparing them for a better, more meaningful family meeting. Eventually, the attorney will engage the client and family with professional advisors, including the accountant and financial advisor, so that everyone understands the client’s intentions. It is vital to include and involve the client’s trusted advisors in the conversation with family. My observation is that, while families disagree, they usually can come to mutual understanding and decision. If trusted advisors come to different conclusions without consulting with one another, clients do not know how to proceed, causing the client to doubt the entire plan. It is essential that the client’s professional trusted advisors communicate with one another and come to a settled unanimous path for the client to pursue.

This virtuous circle of communication continues until the client can no longer communicate their intentions. By that time, the client’s family members and trusted advisors know, understand and will honor the client’s wishes. This process is not only important for the client in gaining perspective over personal choices, it is equally as important for participating family members and trusted advisors because they get to know the client on a much deeper level. By using this approach, family members and professionals will be on the same page in honoring the client’s intentions.

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