The two go hand in hand to best prepare your heirs. Build a foundation for financial values long before any money changes hands.
It can be difficult to not only know when to start talking about money with your heirs but how to instill your principles into the conversation. How will you help them understand this is more about passing on a legacy than money? Will your family understand the importance of charitable giving as much as you do? We’ve compiled some ideas to help you prepare for the most important wealth transfer topics with your family – before your generous gifting begins.
Talking about inheritance may be uncomfortable for some families for a variety of reasons. Facing the prospect of losing a loved one can be very overwhelming. It’s not something most people want to discuss. And what if there are disparities in bequests to your children? That is a sensitive issue too. While these might be difficult conversations to have, this is also why they are so important to address. Some of these topics might become more comfortable to talk through once you’ve built a foundation for honest, open financial conversations.
If possible, bring all your heirs together (or at least those inheriting the majority of your estate) so everyone can get on the same page about your intentions. You may not go into all the specifics during this conversation, but it’s nice to set expectations together and open lines of communication among your heirs too. This may mitigate the risk of any strife between them later on. Then sit down with each heir individually to discuss their gift and role in the estate process.
At some point – and it doesn’t have to be the first or second meeting even – consider introducing your family members to your advisor so they can start to build a relationship and feel comfortable asking questions as they arise. Your advisor can provide their office as a neutral location to host the meetings and serve as an impartial mediator among you if needed.
It goes without saying you care for your family and want to make sure they’re well-equipped to not only manage their inheritance but to make the most of it. Setting your future heirs up for success takes a series of conversations and demonstration of the values that built your wealth in the first place.
When you’re ready to talk, make sure the topics you bring up are based on the maturity level and ability of your potential heirs. The idea is to continually instill and build upon their financial literacy foundation leading up to their inheritance.
For example, young ones in elementary or middle school can grasp important lessons about tradeoffs. You can point out that skipping out on buying a treat every day after school might mean getting that Lego set or video game at the end of the month. Incorporating everyday money management skills, like spending, saving and sharing, will build a foundation for making your heirs good stewards of your wealth later in life.
The teens in your life are noticing brands and have probably even built up some brand preferences and loyalty. Teaching your grandchildren about the market, what you look for in stock and why, could be a good introduction to investing. Picking stocks together could even become a memorable pastime.
Once your loved ones become adults, don’t be shy about sharing more details about the story of your wealth. As young adults, they’re likely more interested in pursuing their own investment opportunities and planning for their future. They are probably putting money into their first job’s 401(k) or learning how a health savings account works. They look up to you and respect the hard work and smart decisions you’ve made to earn your wealth. It will be inspiring and enlightening to understand how you’ve nurtured and grown your nest egg through the years.
The most important aspect of preparing your heirs is ensuring they understand your expectations for them to be good stewards of the wealth you’ve cultivated over a lifetime. By impressing upon them at an early age and throughout their lives that you want your family’s values to live on through your generous gifts, you can rest assured it will.
A unified – and communicated – vision for your family’s wealth will have you feeling confident that your heirs understand the responsibility and great privilege of carrying on a meaningful legacy.