Having the Talk
Take a moment and pretend your older sister and her husband pass away unexpectedly, leaving their three young children behind. You are called into their lawyer’s office immediately to discuss something important. You learn that you and your husband were named guardians of your three nieces and the family dog. While you love your nieces, your life just changed in the blink of an eye. You went from being a professional, childless, young couple in a condo to a five-person family with a dog and a two-story home. Events like this don’t just happen in movies — they happen to people in real life, and not as infrequently as you might think.
Now imagine you are the parents of those three children. What if your younger sister and her husband weren’t able (or willing) to care for your children? What if they decided to pass guardianship on to the next person or worse, what if the children had to go live in foster care? Or what if your sister and her husband accept guardianship of your children, but move them into that condo in the city? These conversations are absolutely critical if you have dependents.
In many families, finances and estate talk are taboo. Talking about what will happen after a person dies can be a painful and scary discussion, but it's a necessary one. It’s important to talk with your loved ones about what you want, what they want, and what is laid out in your will.
4 Tips to Help You Have the Talk
Keep it light — Having this discussion can bring up a lot of emotions for your loved ones; thinking about losing someone you love so dearly is painful. A conversation that's light but to the point can help keep the conversation on track and productive. There may also be tensions that arise through the process — maybe multiple people want the same thing, or someone gets offended by how you’ve decided to split up your money. You might consider having conversations with people individually to avoid upset.
Talk openly and honestly — A decision you have made may hurt someone’s feelings, or there may be things you don’t want to tell people about, but it is crucial to be open and honest with your beneficiaries.
Discuss values, not just valuables — When you die, how do you want people to remember you? What parts of you do you want to live on? This may include traditions, values, family names, rituals, religious beliefs, and so on. This is an important matter to bring up during this discussion. Think back on times that have meant a great deal to your family or traditions that have brought you joy. Maybe it’s very important to you to have your grandmother’s name passed on from generation to generation. Talk about these things with your family to share how you feel and see how they feel.
Have a professional present — Having your estate planner present can be helpful, and in some cases, necessary. In many cases, a professional has a better understanding of how estate planning works and can assist by answering any questions your loved ones may have. You might have a family-only conversation first and then a second conversation with your family and the estate-planning professional.
Like any important discussion, this talk may be difficult. The best approach is to take into account who you are speaking with and how you want to present the topic. Every family is different and every talk will be different, but make sure you have it.
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This newsletter was prepared by Integrated Concepts Group, Inc. The opinions expressed in this newsletter are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation. The views expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by PlanMember Securities Corporation. Material presented is believed to be from a reliable sources and PSEC makes no representation as to it accuracy or completeness.