Openly discussing important matters during the holiday season can bring your family closer.
The holiday season’s approach is often marked by the return of cooler weather and plenty of football games. But did you know that it's also the perfect time to help secure the transfer of your wealth across generations?
When it comes to financial matters, it's common for family members to have different visions, ideas and values, and that can sometimes lead to breakdowns in trust and communication. Here's how to quarterback a frank, open discussion – a family huddle – to help prevent problems long before they start.
As soon as possible, in fact. By planning these meetings years before they’re critically needed, you can control the conversation and approach more sensitive topics in a positive way. The holidays can be a good time to hold these discussions, since everyone is already gathered together and in a good frame of mind.
For some families, this might mean immediate family members only; for others, it’s extended relatives, too. You’ll have to decide what's right for your family, but at the very least, you and your spouse or partner should be on the same page. Having one-on-one conversations with certain members before the family gathering may also help you create a constructive agenda and avoid surprises.
Topics of discussion will vary, but you should discuss matters that impact the smooth transition of wealth – these might include wills, the location of important estate documents, and even funeral and burial preferences. Go into as much detail as you are comfortable with. Take particular note of life changes among family members (births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc.) that can affect legacy planning. As you discuss these topics, allow family members to express their thoughts, feelings and questions.
After your meeting, 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.) if you feel it's appropriate. And most importantly, plan to huddle up again to keep the conversation going.