Starting a conversation with parents about their estate and after-life plans can be a daunting notion. Is it my business? Will Mom or Dad misunderstand my motive?
First, try telling your parents that you would like to talk with them about their estate plan—not because you want to know what, or how much, you might inherit, but because you want to make sure the transfer of their assets goes as smoothly as possible after they die. After all, you or one of your siblings, in all likelihood, will be responsible for carrying out your parent’s wishes – it is your business, literally.
If you think that approach is too blunt, try this: Tell your parents that you’re doing your own estate planning, and the more you know about the family’s finances as a whole, the better job you can do. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to mention that your children—your parent’s grandchildren—will benefit from such preparations and it’s an argument a grandparent might find hard to resist. For those members of the 360° Family Office this conversation makes a lot of sense to your Parents coming from, or together with your Family Officer, who is responsible for the comprehensive care of your entire Family Tree.
An important note to self. If you or any of your siblings are interested in inheriting a particular item, a sit-down with your parents is even more important. At times, the smallest objects—a watch, a painting, a set of dishes—can generate the biggest fights among your family. Clarity will yield a significant peace dividend.
Two situations have recently arisen where it turns out that for some folks there is a topic even more important than talking about the estate plan…the difficult conversation about cleaning out decades of accumulated junk is super helpful. Imagine finding – or have already – a box of your parent’s possessions that includes, for example, every one of you and the siblings report cards from every grade in every school ever attended, or a lifetime of photographs. Or you have found (or will find) clothes in a parent’s closet that have not been worn once in ten or fifteen years.
Eventually ALL of that stuff needs either to be donated, disposed of, or distributed. What’s their plan? Waiting until after death to get started can place major burdens on people. In both cases all the children had to spend a week together in their parents house after their passing to clean it out, filling a dumpster, donating huge amounts of clothing, etc. It’s your life and your business and a clear plan in advance will allow you a greater opportunity for a happier, celebratory goodbye.
Standing by if I can be of assistance.