If there is a boogeyman when it comes to family conversations about inheritance, it is not death. It’s the $40 trillion that financial advisers say their baby boomer clients are going to pass to their children either in an orderly way — or in a chaotic mess. A report by UBS on why families should talk about inheritance confirms the reluctance of people to talk about death and money.
Remarkably, a recent New York Times article, titled "What’s Almost as Certain as Death? Not Talking About the Inheritance," noted that it is easier to have a will (83% do) than it is to discuss the will with your children (only half). It is even more difficult to give them details about those assets (34%).
Regardless their levels of financial wealth, those surveyed were equally deficient when it comes to discussing estate plans with their children. Roughly 55% of people with more than $1 million talk to their children about an inheritance, and 53% of people with fewer than $1 million did. As you might expect, the majority of parents want the transfer of money to their children to go smoothly (84%) without creating bad feelings among siblings (66%).
Why are there so many people failing to take time to let their kids know about this important subject? According to the original article, people usually do not want to discuss inheritance with their children for several reasons.
- They do not want to talk about dying;
- They do not want to discuss money with their children;
- They do not want their children to know how much they are going to receive; and
- They are concerned about their children's financial acumen.
However, there is an even greater issue making the conversation about inheritance more troublesome than it was in prior generations. For example, the article describes how one 65-year-old disclosed everything to her executor, even though she was divorced without children or siblings. She learned from her experience with her mother's estate, which took the women almost two years to settle — despite the fact that it was a modest estate, and her mother had told her where everything was. Likewise, when her stepfather died many years earlier, he left everything to her mother. However, after he died, title to none of the assets had been updated. Consequently, she had to go to court three times to get it done, run an ad in the newspaper and take copies of the will to the bank to get the investments straightened out.
This certainly was not what she expected. Let your children know what to expect regarding their inheritance and your other estate plans. Speak with your estate planning attorney to make sure everything is in order, and then get the family together and have that conversation.
Reference: The New York Times (August 1, 2014) "What’s Almost as Certain as Death? Not Talking About the Inheritance"