For many, discussing finances is considered a very private matter. Growing up, I was never supposed to ask how much money my parents made, and we left it at that. However, whether you are a child helping your parents prepare for the rest of their lives or a parent yourself, having the conversation about financial or estate inheritance plans are an important part of the aging process. While it can often be perceived as an intimidating or ominous task, it is important that the conversation with children over their inheritance begins early, so that everyone can stay informed and prepared throughout the process.
Baby Boomers will inherit $12 trillion from their parents, and they will leave an additional $30 trillion to their own children over the next 30 to 40 years. That’s a lot of value being transferred, so by having a set plan and promoting open dialogue, you can set up success for everyone involved.
Parents: How to Talk to Your Children About Inheritance.
Talking to your children about their inheritance can help you feel more solidified in your plan, while also helping your kids see the importance of saving for their own retirement and accounting for their future life plans. By showing them how to be smart and efficient with their money management, you can mutually benefit from the discussion about your future.
Understand your plan. For one, it is important that you yourself understand what different aspects of your wealth are going into the will ( Read about the difference between a Will-Based Plan and Trust-Based Plan here). Depending on the type of plan you think is a better fit for you and your family, the process and timeline might be slightly different, so it is important to understand the variations between both categories.
Train for the role. Another key reason for discussing your will with your family is because one of your children might have to take on a certain role later in the process- such as giving someone power of attorney– and it is important that the duties and responsibilities of such roles are understood.. If you plan on giving one of your children the deed to your house, or asking them to take over the care of a pet, it is also important to have a conversation with them to ensure they are willing and able to take on any sort of responsibilities of these roles.
Be inclusive. An incredibly important part of the process is to include everyone in the discussion. While you might have multiple children and your oldest might be the most organized and dedicated to the topic (for example), you don’t want anyone to feel left out of the conversation or excluded. In fact, an article on CBS actually suggests the holidays might be a good time to kickstart the discussion because it almost ensures that lots of members of the family will be together. By encouraging everyone to partake in the conversation about your future plans, you can make sure it is the most wholesome and fair representation of your family.
Recognize that plans change. In addition, everyone should recognize that funds that may have previously been set aside in the inheritance category may be re-allotted for retirement funds, emergency medical expenses, or others. By creating a hypothetical budget and discussing it with your children, you can account for unknown future expenses, as well as any debts you may have to pay off that would account for a change in your savings.
Keep it top-of-mind. Even after you have talked to your children initially about the plan for your will, it is important to continue to follow up, whether you decide to make changes down the road or not. Paperwork or other deadlines should be expected down the road, so it can’t hurt to bring it to top-of-mind as you see fit.
Children: How To Talk to Your Parents About Inheritance
Talking about wills is a scary prospect for your parents. Thinking about how your children will be able to take care of themselves after you’re gone can be an incredibly daunting thought. Your parents, no doubt, are in this stage, and this could be the reason they might be avoiding the topic altogether. However, by encouraging your parents to take that step and assuring them that you are there to support them, you can help to make the discussion seem a bit less ominous.
Here are some important things to remember when thinking about having the discussion with your parents about inheritance:
Do it sooner, rather than later. Albeit cliche, we never know what is going to happen. For this reason, it is better to address the topic with your parents early on, so that you can make the best and most well-thought-out plan. Besides, by starting the planning process and discussion early, you all will be more prepared if you must suddenly have to reallocate funds or account for a change in someone’s role.
Be honest. Try to be as transparent as possible with your parents about what sort of responsibilities you think you can handle. If you don’t think you can/want to take care of their house after they have gone, tell them, and talk about who else they would trust it with. If there are certain heirlooms that you feel particularly attached to, explain to your parents why it would be an honor for them to pass down the heirlooms to you. Be open about what your values are and see how they align with the values and goals of your parents so that you can come up with a mutually agreed-upon plan.
Remain calm. Try and keep emotion out of the discussion as much as possible. Sadness, fear, and jealousy are all normal reactions when discussing financial plans, but getting worked up and letting emotions cloud your judgement will only hinder the process. Remember that, in the end, this should be about what your parents want, so it is crucial to try and remain level-headed and calm to concoct the most appropriate plan for your family’s needs.
For some people, the thought of taking on the role of negotiator for their parents might seem too intimidating. If that is the case, you might also consider looking into hiring a seasoned financial or estate planner who can help guide you collectively along in the process. However, some people are perfectly comfortable handling everything themselves, and there are a plethora of resources online that can help you as well.
Regardless of your role or where you might be in the process, estate planning can be a difficult subject to tackle for everyone involved. What have been your experiences when dealing with a will? If you have tips for other readers, we would love for you to submit your story! Want us to find out more on the matter? Ask A Pup, and we’ll do some digging for you.
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