Openly discussing important matters during the holiday season can bring your family closer.
Keeping the lines of communication open and flowing are vital to the successful transfer of wealth between generations. Family members may have differing visions, ideas and values that can sometimes lead to breakdowns in trust and communication. Frank, open family discussions – family huddles – about financial planning can help prevent problems long before they start.
- When should you have a family discussion? As soon as possible. By having these meetings years before there’s a critical need, you can control the conversation. The holidays are a good time to hold a discussion, since everyone is already gathered together and in a good frame of mind.
- Who should be at the table? It depends. For some, it’s immediate family only; for others, it’s extended family, too. At the very least, you and your spouse or partner should be on the same page. While you’re gathered together, each family member should be allowed to share his or her thoughts, feelings, achievements and hopes. Having one-on-one conversations with certain members before the family gathering may also help you create a constructive agenda and avoid surprises.
- What should you discuss? Topics will vary. Go into as much detail as you are comfortable with on matters that impact the smooth transition of wealth, including wills, location of important documents, even funeral and burial preferences. Take particular note of life changes among family members (births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc.) that can affect legacy planning.
- Where do you go from here? Review what was discussed and how new information may impact your financial and estate plans. Consider introducing your family to your professional advisors (accountants, lawyers, financial advisors, etc.). Most important, plan to meet again and keep the conversation going.
Whether you’re preparing for a discussion with an aging parent or your adult children, the sooner you can do it the better. You owe yourself, and those you love, the greater understanding, compassion and comfort that comes from a well-thought-out family huddle.