Your children are heading into middle age, prosperity and children of their own. Their future is important and so talking about an estate plan can be emotional.
Your children's differing viewpoints and personalities might create conflict and lead to a bumpier estate planning process. Often, however, the problem can be solved by proper communication.
Planning how to broach the topic can have truly beneficial effects. Here are some tips to keep the conversation flowing:
- Talk early, talk often. Disunity with your children might occur when estate planning has not been discussed early enough and misconceptions have arisen between parties.
- Empathize. Research has shown that we all might find ourselves feeling a wide range of emotions during discussions of family inheritance.
- Be organized. Just like when they were younger, your kids will hate a long or rambling lecture. Get to your main points and be business-like. Best to bookend the session with small talk.
- Prioritize. Think about how you want to distribute assets among your children. For example, many parents will divide their assets equally, while others might distribute assets unequally to address inequity.
- Phrasing. Think about the phrase: "what's fair" versus "what's equal." Focus your language towards discussions on values and goals, rather than dollar amounts or assets.
- Get advice. An estate planning attorney can show you how to realize these priorities in the best way possible. They will assist with paperwork, provide general support and will be invaluable in the unfortunate case of legal challenges or difficulties in realizing your wishes.
- Think about using a facilitator. Especially if tension develops or is anticipated, a good facilitator can guide all parties through any meetings you might have and can reduce the chance of acrimony and enhance chances of success. It should be a person with superior interpersonal skills who all parties see as neutral.
- Take feedback. Get your children's feedback early on, within reason, and be open to their reactions, good or bad. And speak to them one-on-one privately before any group meetings to make sure they feel heard and valued.
You might not want to talk about money with your adult children for any number of valid reasons. But not speaking to them about their inheritance increases the chances of family disunity, or your estate plan being contested.
How you allocate your wealth should be based on your priorities: what you find most important and meaningful. Using positive and proactive communication strategies can be the key to both ensuring prosperity for your family going forward.