Money, Love & Legacy
John Lennon wrote "Life happens while you're busy making other plans."
Life can change in a heartbeat.
That's why parents and children need to have these conversations from the heart before it's too late.
Money, Love & Legacy is filled with guidelines and tips for you to open the conversations you don't know how to start within your own family. It can be your reference for thinking and talking about money, inheritance, entitlement, responsibility, forgiveness, love and legacy.
Here are 4 Brief Excerpts from the book:
"Fair vs. Equal" Inheritance
It’s not surprising that children don’t always like what parents decide about inheritance. It pits the concept of meritocracy against the idea of parents loving children equally.
When siblings learn the contents of their parents’ will, they often replay their childhood scenarios, when they judged whether their sibling received a gift that cost more, got a larger slice of cake or was allowed to stay up later. They expect their parents to give them an equal share of the family inheritance.
When it comes to writing a will, parents are often caught in the middle. For example, a couple has two sons. The older son is a successful doctor who worked his way through medical school. The other, a high school dropout, aimlessly moves from place to place with no plans for his future.
The parents decide to leave the older son less money and put the younger son’s share into an incentive trust. He can’t get his money if he doesn’t change his behavior. However, they’re wondering if it’s fair to, in effect, punish the older brother for being successful while rewarding his younger brother for lack of ambition.
On the other hand, would it be fair to give them both equal shares, without restricting one from squandering his inheritance?
The bottom line is that siblings are less likely to battle it out in court if they know in advance the reasoning behind their parents’ decision.
In case of illness, emergency or death, the last thing children should have to deal with is confusion about financial, legal, medical, and end-of-life preferences that they did not know about. At a time of crisis or grief, the ability to think clearly is severely compromised. It’s hard to make decisions about anything. It’s even harder to try to find papers and records that could easily, with a little bit of planning and forethought, have been gathered and catalogued in advance.
It is an act of love for parents to provide their adult children with the information they need to help them as they age. The best way to do this is keep the information in one place.
There are commercial binders for this purpose such as Vital Records PortaVault http://www.securitaonline.com with pre-labeled tabs and document pockets for organizing your records and papers. You can also make your own binder and insert tabbed sheets for each category. The important thing is to have a system that you can easily update if any information changes. For everyone’s protection, make sure that any changes are updated and included in the appropriate section in the binder. You will find a list of documents in the appendix of the book.
Children should know where this binder is kept. If parents don’t want to disclose financial information, they should at least have the financial and legal contacts listed in case the children need them. Funeral preferences should be readily available because this is the first thing children will have to deal with. You can keep the binder in a fireproof safe as long as your children know the combination. If you choose to keep the originals in a safety deposit box, be sure adult children are authorized to enter it.
Why It's Vital to Open Difficult Conversations
Why are death and inheritance so hard to talk about?
Social custom teaches us that it’s rude to pry into our parents’ affairs or to raise subjects with our children that will make them uncomfortable. Death and money to us are what sex was to the Victorians, uncomfortable and impolite to discuss, but with repercussions that make conversation necessary.
Home Instead Senior Care, a national provider of home care services, coined a name for this very important conversation – the 40-70 Rule. It means that children who have reached age 40 or whose parents are 70 need to start discussions about expectations and responsibilities regarding living arrangements, driving habits, health concerns and financial matters as the parents age.
The reluctance to talk goes both ways. Boomers don’t want to be perceived as greedy or impolite if they raise the subject about their parents’ financial resources and inheritance issues. They don’t want to intrude on parents’ privacy and autonomy or perceived as waiting for their parents to die.
Their parents are often more willing to discuss end of life issues but are fearful of the emotional minefield of inheritance disclosure to children. Even though they know it’s important for their children not to be surprised after they die, parents still hesitate to initiate conversations about their plans and end-of-life preferences.
How to Ask the Most Important Questions
Conversations that matter fall into two categories – the practical ones that deal with finances, medical, and planning for end of life preferences. The other kind of conversation, the one that deals with unfinished emotional business, can be a huge burden for a child after a parent dies. It can also be more difficult to navigate.
Here is a list of some of the most important questions you and your parent or child can discuss. The first five relate to specific issues or problems between you. The remainder cover areas that people who love each other want to say while they still can.
What could I have done differently?
How did my choice impact you?
What would you have done in my place?
How would that have changed our relationship?
What do you need from me now to move forward?
Do your parents/children know how much you love them?
What do you most respect and admire about them?
What is the most important thing you want them to know?
What are you most grateful for?
Do you need to ask for forgiveness?
Conversations from the heart can help you clear the emotional hurdles between you and someone you love. If you speak with respect and invite them to say what’s in their mind and heart as well, you will be leaving each other a legacy of trust and love.
Don’t wait to say these things. A ‘race to the bedside’ could be too late!
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