We’ve all likely experienced a life event that serves as a milestone and triggers family conversations around our values—moments like a marriage, birth, or death in the family. These moments have probably come even more frequently after the events in 2020 sent our lives into uncharted territory: impeachment proceedings, COVID-19 and the subsequent economic and social ramifications, and national protests around social justice issues.

With these stark reminders of how quickly circumstances can change, it might be a good time to consider getting your family together to discuss your values, what you want to be remembered for, and compare the resources you have to your values and goals. While it may not be the most uplifting conversation, it’s important that your family hears from you what exactly your estate plan entails. Talking about your plans can help set expectations for your loves ones and provide an avenue to resolve potential conflicts immediately.

If you’re uneasy about having this conversation, consider these tips to help make talking about your financial plan with your family a little bit easier.

1. Prepare Ahead of Time

It’s very possible that if you’ve never discussed your estate plan with your family, there will likely be elements that could come as a surprise. Try to think about what questions your family may have so that you can adequately answer them and assuage any potential fears that they may have.

Additionally, part of being prepared is making sure you have all of the information you need to have a fruitful conversation. Taking inventory of all relevant personal and financial account documents, for example, helps make sure everyone is fully informed and knows where and how to access vital documents when the time comes. This account inventory can be a building block to help you identify items you need to communicate to your family. Filling out the form may even uncover gaps in your planning that you may want to discuss with your financial advisor.

2. Consider Multiple Meetings

Whether your family is spread out geographically or you’re concerned about the emotions that accompany having everyone present, it may not be feasible to get your entire family together for a single meeting. It’s okay to have multiple meetings, and by doing so, it may help relieve some of the stress that you may have prior to speaking with your family. If you decide to meet with members of your family separately, make sure you are consistent from meeting to meeting to help ensure there are no inadvertent miscommunications.

3. Refer to It as Your “Legacy Plan”

Just as it’s likely uncomfortable for you to talk about what happens once you’ve passed, it’s also likely that it’ll be uncomfortable for your family. Instead of referring to it as your estate plan (which can conjure up negative emotions) or planning for your passing, consider referring to it as your legacy plan. This has a more positive spin and can help make the conversation easier for your loved ones by shifting the focus away from feelings of loss and sadness and towards how you want to be remembered.

4. Focus on the Big Picture

It may be better to avoid mentioning specific dollar figures during your first meeting. They can bog down the conversation and become a distraction for your family members. Focus the conversation on the broader framework of your estate plan. Talk about what your goals are for your legacy and how the decisions that you’ve made will provide the best chance that you’ll be able to achieve those goals for all members of your family.

Organizing and setting up a family meeting can be intimidating. As difficult as it may be, it’s critical that your family understands what your plans are for your estate. Clear communication now can save your loved ones from headaches down the road.

Financial advisors, like the team at Wealth Enhancement Group, can provide resources like our Personal and Financial Account Inventory to help family meetings run smoothly. Your advisor can also attend and/or lead these meetings as a resource to lean on.

Peter Smith

Peter Smith

Vice President, Financial Advisor

Series 7 Securities Registration,1 Series 66 Advisory Registration† Peter joined the financial services industry following a successful career in sales, applying this experience to provide a high level of customer service to his clients. His focus is on guiding individuals through retirement by managing their cash flow, retirement lifestyle choices, charitable giving goals and estate planning objectives, ultimately working to anticipate risks and simplify their...Read More