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4 Tips for Having “The Talk” - Discussing Estate Plans with Your Family

Posted by Gabriel Burczyk | CEO
June 17, 2014

The summer season gives families the chance to get together for quality time and fun, but it also presents you with an important opportunity – to have a constructive conversation with your family about your finances and estate plan.

Fidelity Investments found that 86% of parents felt peace of mind after having conversation with their children, yet only one-third of parents and children agree about the right timing for these conversations.1

Having this talk helps in three ways:

  1. Preparation – inform your family how you want your estate handled and distributed

  2. Educational – your family members can learn about the details, their role in the plan and clear up any gray areas

  3. Comfort –peace of mind is important and knowing there’s a plan in place to help the transition go smoothly can help

If you’ve been meaning to have this discussion but haven’t started it yet, make now the right time to do it.

Speak with Your Spouse and Financial Advisor First

It’s not uncommon in many households for one person to handle the finances. In these cases it makes sharing the details of your financial plan with your spouse even more important, so they’ll be able to handle everything if needed. It also presents a good opportunity to further develop or potentially revise your financial plan together. You’ll then be able to talk with your children about finances as a team.

Your financial advisor can help with this conversation. Adults and children are more comfortable speaking about finances with a financial advisor than they are with each other, according to a survey by Fidelity Investments.1  Financial advisors usually have experience with these conversations and can keep the discussion focused while making sure all the relevant information is covered.

Initiating an Estate Planning Conversation with Your Family

It’s up to you and your spouse to decide how much information you share with your family. Often children may not be ready for this type of conversation, or capable of handling finances. It’s good practice to at least have the estate planning discussion on a basic level, just so the family knows there’s a plan in place and everyone understands the steps for putting it in motion.

1) Set Up A Framework

Instead of digging into details about your assets and who is inheriting what, establish the conversation at a high level. Just tell your family you want to discuss the future, let them know you have a plan in place and that you want to get everyone involved.

2) Use a Significant Family Event

A landmark family event, or holiday can be a great prompt for starting the estate planning discussion.

3) Use a News Story

If you see an article in the newspaper about Long-Term Care insurance, for instance, that could be a good catalyst.

4) Create a Teaching Moment

Sharing stories about how you saved for retirement, what smart investment choices you made (and the not so smart ones), and what choices led to successes and failures can help guide your children to make good choices with their finances. You could also share specifics about your accounts, your plans for creating retirement income, and what your long-term goals are for your assets.

How to Get Your Children the Right Estate Planning Information

Having a detailed estate planning conversation with your children is like giving them the full blueprint for how to build a house. The next step is to give them (or the person you decide to place in charge of your estate plans) the tools necessary to see it through.

At a minimum, provide them with contact details for those involved with your finances. These include your financial advisor(s), estate attorney and CPA. Also consider introducing these individuals to the person or people who will take over your estate.

Another good step is to include your spouse and children in conversations with your financial advisor about your investment plan. You can also share physical or electronic copies of your will/trust documents and account statements.

Our Wealth Managers Can Help Facilitate the Conversation with Your Family

You can call one of our Wealth Managers today at 1-800-541-7774 or contact us here to help you prepare for this discussion with your family, or you can have us mediate the conversation for you. We can create an outline for how the conversation should go, as well as help you collect and prepare all of the relevant documents you should share. Once you’ve had a discussion with your family about your estate and financial affairs, you’ll hopefully enjoy the peace of mind knowing the transition should be smooth and easy.



1 Fidelity

Investment Planning