Family meeting needed to discuss financial preparations
During the holiday season, you no doubt have a lot going on in your life — work functions, gatherings with friends and neighbors, tracking down the elusive “perfect gift,” etc. But you may find it valuable to add one more event to your calendar: a family meeting to discuss those financial preparations that affect you and your loved ones.
Of course, the scope of your meeting will depend on your age and the age of your children, and on whether you have elderly parents. So, let’s look at one family meeting scenario that would work under two different sets of circumstances: you are meeting with your own grown children or you are meeting with your elderly parents.
In either case, you’ll want to review the following areas:
Investment information — It’s a good idea to let your grown children know where you (and your spouse, if still living) keep your investments and what sort of investments and retirement accounts you own, such as your IRA, 401(k), and so on. You should also provide your children with the name of your financial advisor. And talk to your parents about their investments. You might think that this could be challenging topic to bring up, but you might be surprised at their willingness to talk.
Estate planning documents — Comprehensive estate planning can involve a variety of legal documents, such as a will, a living trust, power of attorney, etc. If you have already created these documents, you need to share both their location and their intent with your grown children, who will be active players in carrying out your estate plans. The same is true with your elderly parents — try to encourage them to share all their estate-planning documents with you, especially if they will be counting on you for their care.
Names of professional advisors — As you put together your estate plans, you will likely need to work with a team of financial, tax and legal advisors. Make sure your grown children know the names of these professionals and how to contact them. Similarly, seek the same information from your parents.
Wishes for future living arrangements — It’s certainly possible that you will be able to live independently your whole life. On the other hand, you may eventually need some type of long-term care, such as that provided in a nursing home or an assisted-living residence. Let your children know what your feelings are about such a possibility, and what preparations you have made. And try to elicit the same information from your own parents.
Funeral or burial instructions — Admittedly, you can probably find topics that are more pleasant to discuss than funeral plans. Yet, if you make your own burial or cremation plans in advance, and possibly even prepay for them, you will be taking a tremendous burden off the shoulders of your loved ones, who won’t be forced to make difficult decisions — or scramble for money at short notice — during a highly emotional time in their lives. Once again, you’ll also want to learn about your parents’ desires for their final arrangements, and what steps they may have already taken in this area.
By holding a family meeting about these issues today, you can avoid a lot of stress and misunderstandings in the future. So bring out the coffee and cookies — and start talking.
Doug Drost is a certified financial planner with Edward Jones, 2262 Reno Highway.