“Children should be seen and not heard.” My parents loved to take that old expression out for a spin every once in a while. It was never taken seriously. The three of us loved to talk. Knowing my place and shutting up was never an option. There was usually too much information being shared as opposed to not enough. Not all families operate like that. Elder Law is an education in family dynamics and communication. More than a few parents subscribed to that old expression and left their children on the outside looking in for most of their lives.
Deciding to share details of one’s financial life and estate planning with children is a big step. A parent’s calculus takes into account the child’s maturity, education, reasonableness and intentions. Some children possess the tools required to seamlessly synthesize information and act on it when necessary in a prudent fashion. Other children would run into difficulties or face frustration. Refusing to share information on principle alone is a short-sighted mistake that will haunt the family when a parent confronts a serious illness or passes away.
Things that you don’t know can hurt you. Children unaware of their parents’ financial details and estate plans have been blindsided by poorly drawn and executed Wills and Trusts. Time and money are wasted because simple conversations did not take place between parents and children. There are unspoken fears that parents have concerning the redefining of a parental relationship with regards to money as parents age and children’s thoughts of inheritance creep in. Frankness in these situations can reduce anxiety on both sides. Real conversations with concrete numbers starts the process. Parents and children that are on the same page with regards to estate planning, gifting and coordination can troubleshoot problem areas – a poor investment decision, high fees, low interest rates, an unreliable Trustee.
Talking with your children about your financial history and planning has the added benefit of educating them about what has worked and what has not worked. It is a two-way conversation. Too many children that never had these conversations with their parents approach financial and estate planning blindly without proper grounding. Knowing how to save and how to invest will aid your children throughout their lives. Sometimes old expressions outlive their usefulness. Parents and children have a lot to say to each other.