Talking to your parents about their Retirement Finances or Estate Plans is perceived by many adult children as a conversation too difficult to have and one that is best avoided.
34% of parents have not had a detailed conversation with their adult children about their living expenses in retirement and 43% of parents said they haven’t had detailed discussions about their Long Term Care Plans. That’s according to a survey of 221 parents (age 55+) and their adult children, conducted for Fidelity Investments. Read the summary.
The barriers sighted in the research to having these conversations tend to revolve around deeply held beliefs. These include long-held prohibitions on talking about money or death, parents fearing the loss of control over their finances, or sometimes a sense of embarrassment at mismanaged finances.
Adult children can feel uncomfortable about raising the topic of their parents’ finances for fear they may appear greedy or nosy.
Even when families talk, misunderstandings happen. For example, while 69% of parents say they’ve discussed their Will and Estate Planning with their children, 52% of children say that’s not the case, according to the survey.
The failure for families to discuss this topic can lead to many problems, not least of which is the potential for serious conflicts among adult children after the parents die. For example, the parents may well have had good reason to leave more money to one grandchild than the others. However, neglecting to discuss that reasoning with their children can lead to family rifts and even contested Wills.
The existence of an Estate Plan won’t stop these problems, Estate Plans fail when the parents don’t communicate their intentions. Parents set out with all the best intentions of ensuring the family wealth is passed down to the next generation, indeed without effective Estate Planning, families can see significant erosion in the financial value of the family wealth. Long Term Care Fees, relationship breakdowns all too often contribute to this erosion even before death, let alone the dent a 40% Inheritance Tax Bill can make in a legacy intended for loved ones.
By talking to their adult children about what their intentions are and what they want to happen after they have passed on means the whole family is clear from the outset about what mum and dad really want to happen.
Request a meeting
Ak mum and dad for a family meeting and agree on some quality time to discuss the subject. Talk about your intentions in a way that won’t put your parents on the defensive. Don’t start with: “Hey, do you two have life insurance?” That type of question might prompt your parent to think: “You’re hoping I’ll die so you can get some money”!
Try a sofer more engaging approach, maybe relate it to your own financial planning. For example: “Hey mum & dad, with the new house move, we’ve just set up new Wills for ourselves to make sure the grandchildren are looked after, and we learnt a lot of stuff we didn’t know along the way. That got us thinking, we’re not as clear as we think we should be on what your wishes are in terms of your Estate. We want to make sure that we all understand what is important to you and what we can do to support you.”
Focus on what your parents want
Keep the focus on your parents’ wishes to make it clear they will benefit from this conversation, and to help everyone feel more at ease. For example: “We’d like to understand what your wishes are so we don’t have to be guessing. I’m sure you wouldn’t want us, your children, arguing with each other because we didn’t understand how you wanted it to be laid out.”
The key is affirming and validating the other person’s values and needs by firstly listening and then repeating, verbatim, what your parents have said. For example, “I hear you saying you would like Anne to inherit the house because she loves it the most and already lives nearby.”
The next step is to validate what you have been told by expressing what makes sense from your perspective. For example, “It makes sense you want to do this because you care about Anne and she has expressed the most interest in staying here.”
The final step is to empathize with the speaker’s emotional state. For example, “I imagine you might be feeling rather nervous about this wish as you’re worried about how I’ll feel about it.” Then the original speaker expresses what they’re feeling.
The process is aimed at stepping inside the other person’s shoes, creating a safe and respectful climate for communication.
Attend a Seminar to find out more
At Redwood, we are passionate about helping people understand how true and effective Estate Planning protects the family wealth and how putting the family in the driving seat of managing the Estate can make a significant difference to the Estate beneficiaries. Every month, we run FREE to attend Public Information Seminars on the topic if Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning.
Our Seminars are a great way to find out more and introduce mum & dad to the topic of Estate Planning. They will help you and your parents the steps you can take to protect the family wealth from Care Fee Assessment, Relationship Breakdown and Inheritance Tax.
Redwood has helped hundreds of families to communicate and work together to create Estate Plans that meet our Clients needs and that are fully understood by their families. We believe in involving the whole family in the process and we encourage our Clients to bring their adult children with them to the meetings we hold to create the Estate Plans. We also encourage our Clients to appoint the beneficiaries of their Estate as the Trustees and Executors of the Estate, putting control in the hands of their loved ones rather than a Professional who will undoubtedly rack up on-going charges against the Estate for the work they undertake.