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Communicating with Parents about Finances

If you are like most of us, a discussion about money and inheritance does not always come easy and most adult children do not know much about their parents’ financial situation. No matter how old or young we are, discussing healthcare, disability, death and finances with family members now is a good idea especially while one is in good health.

Avoiding the discussion only makes it worse and limits your options. Although this is not an easy topic to discuss, having a plan or strategy can make things much easier. In addition, you will know what to do. Advance planning gives you peace of mind and could save time and money.

Decision-making during a crisis limits your options and choices…..a parent may not be able to communicate wishes, children may not know parents’ wishes or have access to financial accounts, healthcare providers may not be allowed to discuss specifics with family, or decisions may cause dissension among family members.

Why do conversations about money matter? An estate attorney said one of his clients had told her son that he could receive the family’s grandfather clock but she had also promised the same clock to the daughter. After the mother died, the son proceeded to haul the clock out of the house. When the daughter saw the sibling doing this, the siblings ended up in a fistfight, breaking the clock and not speaking for several years.

Children get involved in their parents’ finances when there is chronic illness, when parents are unwilling or unable to manage their finances, if they have dementia or are victims of fraud, or if parents die. Nevertheless, when should children become involved in their parents’ finances? Opportunities to discuss their finances can happen during a visit, when reading publications or attending seminars, and/or visits with financial and legal professionals. The death of a friend or relative can also lead to a family discussion on the importance of estate planning.

When talking about inheritance, be clear about your own motives for raising the issue. Respect the fact that others may not be ready or able to face their own or another’s death. Remember that listening is an important part of communication. Ask the “what if” type questions. Look for natural opportunities to talk about this topic. Keep in mind that others may have different feelings and opinions. When another family member raises the issue, be willing to listen and talk. Adult children are just as likely to refuse to talk as parents or in-laws.

So, take the time now to communicate with family members about finances as it will make life easier.

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