5 Ways to Prepare for a Hard Talk About Family Finances

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Family on couch having a discussion

Some types of family conversations can be a source of stress and anxiety, but talking about finances and future plans for household assets doesn’t have to be one of them. Preparing for how the discussion will flow, and giving thought to where and when the discussion will take place, can lower everyone’s anxiety level in the moment. Discussing financial needs and assets regularly can create more stability for loved ones who will be responsible for carrying out a family member’s wishes. Here are five tips to keep in mind:

  1. Make a list of participants. Write down who should be involved in the conversation, such as the person who will be your executor, health proxy, members of the immediate family or others who need to be aware of certain wishes or documents.
  2. Keep perspective. One of the most important ways to put everyone in the meeting at ease is to assure them ahead of time that this is not an emergency. It’s a good-sense step that helps ensure everyone is on the same page.
  3. Schedule the meeting. Take care to set a time and place that will be comfortable for everyone involved. Provide options to accommodate everyone; keep in mind that a virtual meeting may work best.
  4. Create an agenda. The meeting agenda may be provided to attendees ahead of time, especially if there is information others should know upfront or items they need to bring. If you will be giving new roles to individuals, such as designating a caretaker, guardian or proxy, it may be best to discuss this privately before the meeting. Having an agenda can help you run the meeting efficiently and allocate time to each topic.
  5. Gather documents and accounts. Think about any documents that may need to be on hand, including a list of important contacts (insurance company, attorney, doctors, etc.) or copies of life insurance policies, wills and financial statements.

It can be a good idea to hold regular family meetings to stay current with accounts and family members’ wishes. Things change over time, so it’s important to keep your documents updated. You’ll want to make updates to insurance beneficiaries and important documents, like a will, if and when circumstances change. Significant income or asset changes and, of course, new family members (children, grandchildren or in-laws) would need to be taken into consideration.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for advice along the way. An estate planning attorney may have valuable insights as to how to make sure the family feels included and at ease. Inevitably, family members will be making decisions during a highly emotional time, and having everyone on the same page can make moving forward without conflict much easier.

Checklist for Family Finances

Not sure how to prepare for the family discussion? Here are important questions to ask:

  • Do you have an updated will? (Attorneys usually recommend that all adults have one, not just senior family members.)
  • Have you identified guardians for minor children?
  • Do you have a durable power of attorney?
  • Do you have a living will and/or a medical power of attorney? (You have a legal right to specify the level of care you wish to receive if you are incapacitated. Most importantly, you can designate the individuals responsible for making such decisions.)
  • Are your life insurance, pension, IRA and annuity beneficiary designations current?
  • Are all your important documents in one place, such as a safe deposit box? Are designated family members’ names on the signature card?
  • Do you have an available list of important information? This might include bank accounts, retirement accounts, other financial accounts, life insurance policies, other assets and the names and contact information of your attorney, accountant, doctors and others.
  • Do you need to contact your attorney to update your will or financial institutions and administrators to update beneficiary, coverage or other information?

Part of the family financial discussion many find difficult is considering end-of-life decisions. Having documents ready can ease distress when making a decision at a particularly difficult time. You have access to the REALTORS® Group Term Life Insurance policy, which can put pieces in place to ease your financial discussions or help those you love when you are no longer able to provide. More information about the benefits of this insurance, including policy features, costs, eligibility, renewability and exclusions and limitations, are available at realtorsinsuranceplace.com/life.

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