Get ahead of family conversations about your estate
About a year ago our family experienced a sudden, tragic accident and life changed for us all. It was devastating but there was some comfort in knowing that we had already had family conversations about what was to happen financially if an unexpected event arose. The assurance allowed us to focus on healing as a family, knowing we were all in tune about the estate.
As an advisor, I understand how overwhelming a conversation such as the one we had can be. It acknowledges death, which we might be uncomfortable discussing. It reveals information about money that many are taught to keep private. It brings to light the different priorities of different family members.
However, starting these conversations when people are healthy and happy is the best time. Dealing with death and taxes at the same time is terrible and might cause confusion or even conflict as grieving family members learn for the first time the details of an estate plan.
The conversations you have can be positive.
Parents – you don’t have to share all details about your assets, but you should let your family know what you’re planning, and assure them that your Will and Power of Attorney are in place. The better they understand your wishes, the better they can carry them out after you’re gone. You can involve your investment advisor in some of these discussions -- as an objective party able to describe available options.
Kids – be patient in encouraging an open discussion. Take time to learn about estate planning and the different tools that can be put in place. Maybe soften “What about your money when you’re gone?” to “Can we set a time this year to learn more about your estate plans?”
Be sure to agree on how family can access important documents quickly in the event that you are incapacitated or have died. These documents, or the means by which to access them, can be left with a family member, a lawyer, or other professional. And remember that estate planning isn’t only for older people. If your kids are young there is even more reason to have things in place.