In Part I, we discussed how to prepare to share your financial information with your children by creating an Executive Ledger. This is an essential step to making sure that your estate is in good order and that the process of settling your estate will be as easy as possible for your loved ones. If you’re married, I recommend that you and your spouse create this ledger together so that both of you understand your household situation and know where to find your important documents when necessary.
The next step in this process is sitting down with your children at a family meeting.
It’s important to remember what’s being discussed: your money and your legacy plans. At this family meeting, you don’t have to share anything with your children that you’re not comfortable sharing, like bank balances or to whom you want to leave certain items. Of course, if you’re clear about your wishes now, that might help minimize some hurt feelings or family squabbles after you’re gone. But as long as you’ve worked with attorneys and financial professionals to create a strong, clear legacy plan, those specific details can wait.
The most important thing for your peace of mind is that enough information is given so that at the right time, the people whom you have trusted to carry out your wishes will have the information they need. Sharing this information at a family meeting now can save you from misunderstandings and confusion later.
To cover all the important bases, your family meeting should include these three discussion points:
1. Where to find your plan.
Your children should know where you and your spouse keep your Executive Ledger. If you follow my recommendations in Part I, your ledger will be pretty comprehensive. Keep any additional information your kids might need close by, like user names and passwords for any online accounts you use and a list of any recurring subscriptions or expenses, like magazines and your cell phone.
2. Your vision of life without your spouse.
I know, this can be difficult. But your children should understand some of your basic logistical plans for life after you or your spouse passes away, especially if either of you have ongoing medical concerns. For example, will the surviving spouse stay in the family home or sell it and move closer to other family and friends?
If you and your spouse need help solidifying this plan, revisit my article on having a heart-to-heart conversation and make some decisions before you have your family meeting. Agreeing on all of these details and incorporating them into your estate plan will make a difficult process that much easier.
3. Your legacy plans.
If your legacy includes leaving money to your heirs or if you have more philanthropic goals, sharing these plans with your loved ones at your family meeting will give them access to your thought processes while you are living.
This is also a good opportunity to share your values and beliefs. As I discussed in my Legacy Series of blog posts, there are two ways to leave a legacy. The first option, dropping a bag of cash into your kids’ laps, is certainly the easiest. The second, sharing your convictions and ideas about faith, family traditions, work ethic, character, and giving back, is more challenging. But twenty years from now, the values you lived by and the beliefs that you held dear will prove far more valuable to your heirs than your money.
Talking to your kids about your values can also help them start thinking about your legacy beyond how it will benefit them directly. The example that a responsible philanthropy plan can set for your heirs can have an impact that lasts for generations. You might even consider involving your children in your plan by deciding as a family what causes your legacy will support. You could work together to set up a charitable foundation or a scholarship fund to spread your family’s good name and good works and hopefully inspire other families to do the same.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I realize this can be a challenging process. If you find that you are unable to get through these steps, you may want to ask your financial advisor, attorney, CPA, or other professional for assistance. Having a neutral third party organize and facilitate your wishes can help to ease the emotional strain of working through these sensitive subjects on your own and will ensure nothing is overlooked.
Jack Davis is the founder and CEO of Navigation Retirement Group, an independent wealth management firm serving high achieving retirees and pre-retirees with investable assets between one and ten million dollars. For nearly three decades, he has been using his asset management and financial planning skills to develop and implement planning strategies that help pursue his clients’ unique goals. Passionate about education, he holds a Masters in Personal Finance and the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ credential. He is also the author of Cash Out! Retire on Your Terms, Live Well and Die Happy, a book that gives pre-retirees and retirees planning tools and insights that can help them flourish throughout retirement. Based in Oro Valley, he and his team serve clients throughout the greater Tucson area and around the country. Learn more by connecting with Jack on LinkedIn.
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