Monday, August 10, 2015

The second most difficult conversation you may never have

Recently, I was trying to unwind after a day filled with client meetings and a sad phone call notifying me that a longtime client had passed away. Although I thoroughly enjoy my profession, there are certain days that just take the wind out of my sails.

When I get home after an unusually busy day, I just plant myself in front of the television and mentally escape for a while. One evening, within the span of a few hours, I was bombarded with television ads that were either visually suggestive or actually dealt with the topic of sex. It was a revelation.

It reminded me of the most difficult conversation my wife and I had while raising our children. The age-old discussion about the birds and the bees. Then, from my experience as a financial adviser, it occurred to me that second most awkward discussion that many parents have with their children comes much later in life. The discussion about end-of-life money issues, desires and goals.

Of course, most people designate who they want to be beneficiary of their investments. For example, with an IRA you can name your spouse as a primary beneficiary and surviving children equally as contingent beneficiaries.

Many people often take the time to draw up a will and a trust. Parents might choose to name one of their adult children as trustee and designate that child to distribute their nest egg to other surviving family members. They could also designate a family member to make end-of-life health care decisions.

It might all look good from a legal standpoint, but from my viewpoint, many parents never really have a detailed discussion of their goals and desires. They just leave it for their one designated trustee to sort out the details long after they are gone.

Don’t get me wrong; having your legal affairs in order is important, but I think most families would be better served simply by having a more detailed discussion with family members.

Since we’re in a Woodward Dream Cruise mindset, who’s going to get the family’s collectible car? Or mom’s family heirloom and dad’s coin collection? Do the trustees know who is supposed to get what?

I often hear family members say that dad would have wanted a certain person to get this, or that mom would have wanted a certain thing to happen. But when I press as to whether there were written instructions or even a conversation, more often than not the answer is no.

A friend recently pressed her mom about end-of-life wishes. Her mom was shocked that her daughter didn’t know about the list that detailed all of her end-of-life wishes including what hymns were to be played at her funeral. My friend simply had no idea such a list even existed.

So, even though it’s uncomfortable, the birds and the bees topic is eventually discussed, but detailed sharing of money-related issues and concerns is seldom shared or discussed. It’s usually up to a son or daughter to guess what mom and dad wanted. I suggest you take the time to have the discussion.

And finally, I will be one of the speakers at the healthy, wealthy and wise workshop at the Troy community center on Aug. 18. For details and reservations, please call 248-952-1744.

No comments:

Post a Comment