We talked in a previous blog about the fact that most couples find it very difficult to discuss their estate intentions with their children. The reality is, there will be a family meeting to discuss your wishes, it is just a question of whether you are going to be there or not.
Unfortunately, most family’s experience is a “Plan B” option when it comes to learning about their parent’sintentions. Family members gather in a sterile lawyer’s office; emotions are likely high as they have just buried their parent. They hear, from someone they may not know, the details, size and distribution of your estate. Little or no insight is provided behind your decisions and desires, so your family struggles to understand your heart and values in regard to your assets. You have missed a great opportunity to share and convey deeply important things. This approach leaves room for lots of misunderstanding, hurt and incorrect assumptions. It provides poor closure and can set a family up for a lifetime of rift including sibling rivalry. When nothing is said, unmet expectations are virtually guaranteed.
Parents are not required to give anything or communicate anything, but wise parents realize their actions will make a statement. A wonderful reality to recognize is our child wants to know us. This includes being aware of our core values, guiding principles and what we desire and wish for them. Nothing can be more rewarding than for both generations to get to know each other on a significant level.
Now let us take a look at how well “Plan A”, the best case scenario, can work out.
Over time, at various family gatherings, (at least annually) family members enjoy time together celebrating God’s goodness and blessings upon them. In a comfortable and loving setting, parents (not executors) have the opportunity to share the experiences and guiding principles they have drawn from through their lives and to share their testimony of their faith journey. They can express their desire to create a lasting legacy of a strong and loving family, who are great stewards with what they have been given. They also impress the responsibility of properly stewarding the resources that have been entrusted to them. Children learn of the ministries, of the people and the causes, which are dear to their hearts and why. Both generations are able to ask probing questions and enjoy rich conversations. You may not base your stewardship intentions on these conversations, but your children will feel valued and family bonds will deepen. The financial details may change over time so they should not be conveyed, however your values and philosophies will not change. These discussions will lead you further down the path of significant relationships with your family.
Most people spend 40 years accumulating wealth, 20 years trying to preserve it and 60 minutes in a lawyer’s office deciding where it should go when they are gone. You owe it to yourself to have a well thought out plan, and you owe it to your family to have that first family gathering where they can benefit from your attendance, rather than be required to meet in a lawyer’s office where your permanent absence is noticeable.
Covenant Family Wealth Advisors' certified financial advisors and business succession planning experts help guide families through the technical and emotional aspects of managing wealth, estate planning and business succession. Our experienced financial management team uses a Christian perspective that is rarely found in traditional financial planning, and we work closely with you to develop a personal Holistic Stewardship Plan that encompasses financial planning, estate planning, family business transition and philanthropy.