I have long been a strong advocate of family meetings concerning estate plans -- meetings that include the spouses of children -- because I believe it is best for those who are going to have to live with the estate plan crafted by the parents to know what is coming before one or both parents die. Family meetings can prevent litigation -- if only because the parents see who may act up, and can take steps to address the potential conflicts.
People’s skills in saving for retirement, investing and managing finances are important to them and their immediate family. However, when people are successful in these arenas, as well as when they are not successful, they have a direct impact on immediate and extended family members.
MarketWatch’s recent article, “How to talk to your family about your estate plan,” says that frequently those most affected are the ones about whom we care the most. Children, grandchildren, spouses and partners, perhaps even our own parents, all have an interest in our finances.
People are uncomfortable talking about financial matters, even with those loved ones and family members who have a legitimate right to know about it. Families will ask about what’s in a person’s will, who you want to make healthcare decisions if you’re unable, and what are your thoughts on end-of-life options and choices.
It’s hard to envision how you would actually sit down with your heirs and explain what’s contained in your will. If you have a “blended” household with multiple generations, you’ll need to attempt to peacefully negotiate the division of expenses and responsibilities.
What’s the secret to a successful family financial meeting?
Unfortunately, there are no magic answers to make this easy. However, you can move the ball by taking the time to consider what’s most important to you. Although they seem to be about money, many critical family conversations center upon about values. This makes it a bit easier, because it’s much easier to talk about “values” than to talk about money.
You’ll need to cover the topics of both values and money. If you have children and grandchildren with different circumstances, who have achieved different levels of success in their lives, you’ll have to think carefully about how you want to distribute your assets. Do you want to make one-off gifts to each, depending upon their situations, or do you want to give an equal share to all? These are not easy decisions, but they are important.
These conversations with family members, which can have their challenges, can bring the family together with a closer understanding of who you are and the values you want your children and grandchildren to share.
Reference: MarketWatch (September 9, 2017) “How to talk to your family about your estate plan”