We want our clients to have healthy family relationships and financial wisdom. Many of us grew up with the notion that talking about money was taboo – even inside your own family.
And while the status of your 401(k) or the monetary value of your trust might not be polite conversation at a dinner party, we believe communicating at least high-level types of assets and accounts to your family and other beneficiaries is important. In our experience, openly discussing finances and your financial planning wishes is the best way to ensure they are actually carried out when you’re gone.
The best approach to this conversation is what we call the “family meeting.” This is a planned and scheduled conversation with anyone who may be an heir or involved in your finances (i.e. your children, grandchildren, siblings, power of attorney, trustee, etc.). While it may seem daunting or grim, it will give you immense peace of mind when it’s done and everyone is on the same page.
Here are our top four tips for making this meeting as successful as possible.
Be Clear About the Purpose of the Meeting
When setting up the meeting, be clear with each person what the meeting is about. If it’s to discuss a current will, trust or financial plan, be clear that these things are already written, you just need to communicate their intent. If an estate plan has not been created yet, let everyone know that you may want their input on the best way to construct one.
Letting people know if they should be prepared to give opinions or simply receive information will help cut down on any confusion or hurt feelings. Also be clear about what role they are playing in your financial future: beneficiary, trustee, power of attorney, medical power of attorney, or any other roles involved.
Have All Your Documents at the Ready
Whatever documentation needs to be discussed, have it nearby so you can reference it, ensuring you are giving correct and up to date information. It may even be helpful to make copies for each person at the meeting.
This could include a copy of your last will & testament, any paperwork an attorney had provided you for an estate plan, planning documents from a financial advisor, any codicil or addendum to a will or living trust, power of attorney, financial statements, medical directive, etc. Additionally, let the necessary people know where all that critical paperwork is kept in your home, so they will be able to easily access it if needed.
Be Open Minded
If you truly trust the people at your family meeting with your financial planning information, then it’s helpful to also be willing to listen to input or ideas. For instance, you may have named your eldest son your power of attorney, when in fact your daughter is better with paperwork and finances.
If the two of them propose a change in responsibility, be willing to listen and change some things so that the right people are in the right positions. Or let’s say you have a trust set up for your grandchildren that you had planned on giving them access to when they turn 18, but your son cautions you that his children may not be responsible enough for that much money at that point in their lives.
Be open to the idea that he may know his children’s level of maturity and responsibility better than you, and knows that the money will be better used at a later date.
Bring in a Professional Third Party
The best thing you can do to make your family meeting a success is to bring in a professional party to help guide the discussion, answer questions and give expert advice. At Tull Financial Group, we provide this as a service to our financial planning clients. They find it helps to have an objective person in the room who can give an unemotional opinion.
Having a financial professional in the room is also helpful in educating your children and beneficiaries about the best way to manage future income and financial benefits. Education and communication are critical in ensuring that your family is taken care of for many years to come and that your wishes are carried out appropriately.
If you’re ready to set up a family meeting to discuss your finances and future, please contact Tull Financial Group today on 757-436-1122.