Over the past few weeks, my son and I have been watching a fun show where part of the plot was to mimic family shows of the past; ones most of us can well remember. This new show made reference to family gatherings with positive memories of job promotions, increased salaries and bigger homes as well as dramatic situations with not-so-nice outcomes such as the loss of a loved one or a hard life lesson of defeat. The dichotomy of lessons in the show made me think about how television shows mimic real-life.
How is this experience similar or different to my own family’s story if it were a show? Did I learn from the experience in my life? Did I teach my children how to cope with something difficult? What did I teach them about finances, planning, investing, inheritance? Will my story include these experiences? What about the stories of my client’s families? How are their experiences teaching them lessons? Let’s explore ways we can create some harmony within our own families in relation to our story and multi-generational planning. What can you do to make sure your loved ones understand your financial story? Certain conversational queues will help cultivate a harmonious family discussion that spans generations.
A happy family is but an earlier heaven. – George Bernard Shaw, Nobel Prize Writer
The First Step is Talking About Money
What is money? What does it produce? How does it help the family? From there, the family can sit down and transition from money to wealth and who’s wealth you’re discussing. This is where estate planning comes into context. I’m simplifying the process greatly, but this is the stage when a trusted group of professionals can help guide these conversations in the right direction and how much information needs to be provided to those involved.
Be Transparent in Your Intentions
Be intentional about family conversations, but make it a point to have them on a reoccurring basis. Have open dialogue with your family. Start with how your story is being woven over time, and what sort of wealth you want to leave behind. With family knowing your story, those chosen to take care of your affairs will understand your wishes better. You don’t want an executor that isn’t objective and fair. Neglecting specific people may be part of your legacy (family dynamics happen that way), but if your wishes are properly carried out, people are told only what they need to know.
Similarly, gifting money to certain family members such as minors without the parent’s involvement could create problems without proper tools such as trusts, choosing the right trustees, and instructions on when those children should receive those assets.
Create a Safe Space
Make these experiences fun and inviting for those involved such as meeting for dinner at a neutral place where speech can be free from criticism. Everyone can tell their story in the right place, the right time, and in the right way. By working with the right financial professional or team of professionals, they can assist in that happening.
In the right setting, these discussions don’t have to just be about money. You can leave the door open for honest communication about any life event within the family. When it comes to planning, it all counts. It all matters in some way. Knowing that, and allowing your family to know that specific idea may just be the key to unlock true harmony between you and your loved ones.
Do you want to be the family that argues in court over a decision made by a passed loved one? Do you have a friend or family member that you can unequivocally say is not financially savvy or comfortable making big decisions? What about someone that doesn’t have the same ideals as you? These people are a part of your life one way or another. You would be surprised to know that most of these people still think they will be involved in your estate somehow. Why not fill them in on your plans? You can slowly teach them to be a part of it, or you can let them know they need to step aside.
We live in a world of immediate gratification and feedback. Unfortunately, financial planning and to a greater extent, multi-generational planning doesn’t show results for many years. It must be educated, cultivated, and continuously discussed. Being open with your family about finances doesn’t have to be a taboo subject. For those involved in the decision making process of other’s lives, including them in the estate process is essential to the plan being enforced properly.
Derek M Oxford | CFP®️, AEP®️