Estate planning is a key function of managing your financial affairs
Once more round the sun...
Every Christmas, over lunch, our family inevitably looks back on the year that’s just ended. And just as inevitably, my parents will make a joke about their own mortality.
“We’ve made it another year, that’s another year that you don’t get your inheritance….”
We all laugh, but as you can imagine, it is uncomfortable.
No one round the table wants to imagine a future without my parents. And the references to money are delicate.
Nevertheless, I’m glad they do it.
And there’s an important financial lesson here for every family, including yours.
You see, in the past, my parents’ jokes have opened the way to serious conversations about what will happen to their money after they pass on.
They have already told my sister and I that they are going to share everything equally between us upon their death. We’ve even discussed specifics.
More seriously, we have also discussed what financial provisions have been made should the worst happen (not death – I’m talking about serious, debilitating illness).
And I’ve also been able to ensure they received professional financial advice about how to arrange their financial affairs, so that their wishes are carried out in the most tax-efficient way.
These are awkward conversations, no doubt.
But they are simply too serious to be left until you, or someone close to you, is seriously ill, and unable to make arrangements – or until there is a death.
We all know families where parents, adult children and even spouses never discussed what was going to happen to their money when they die – leading to emotional and financial disaster.
Some families are torn apart when siblings realise they have not been treated equally in a will… Even if the parents had perfectly good reason for doing so. It can take years to heal.
I’ve seen adult children struggle for months after their parents’ deaths, trying to sort out their messy financial affairs, because there was no will, or no one knew what their assets were.
They are bogged down in bureaucracy at a time when they should be mourning.
Often, parents unwittingly put their children at financial risk, because they made no provisions to fund end-of-life care.
And sadly, too often, no one knows what the deceased really wanted to do with their money after they died – so their wishes are not honoured.
There are good reasons why you might find this difficult to broach.
You might not want to disclose your financial affairs to your parents or children, especially if your estate is worth less – or more! – than they imagine.
Maybe you feel it’s not urgent – everyone seems in good health right now – or you dread the family drama that will follow, once you start talking about who gets what.
But just imagine how much worse it will be if you leave it too late…
You have to get it all out in the open, so that the arrangements are clear, everyone knows what to expect, and you can be assured it’s all been dealt with.
It’s usually a relief.
So how do you handle those delicate conversations diplomatically? And what kind of issues should you discuss?
I’ll tell you more in my next blog – please look out for it.
PS: Have you successfully brought up inheritance and money with your parents or children? Drop me a line and let me know how you initiated the conversation…