By Nathaniel Sillin
When you die, will your kids fight over your money?
It’s an important question that might be hard to answer now, but parents who devote themselves to estate planning with relevant updates over their lifetimes can potentially keep arguments between adult children to a minimum.
As of 2013, American retirees are the sixth most generous in the world when it comes to the amount of assets passed on to family, according to a survey by HSBC, the global British bank. The latest survey noted that 56 percent of American retirees planned to leave an inheritance with an average amount of $176,814.
How you allocate your estate, no matter what the amount, requires planning and proper communication. Here are a few ways to start.
Know where you stand first. If you haven’t updated your estate planning in the last 5-10 years, do so now to fully understand your complete financial picture. Like all personal finance issues, estate planning should be adjusted when significant life changes happen or there is a major shift in assets, such as when a relative needs help. In short, your estate picture has to reflect current financial realities, so before you decide how to allocate your wealth either before or after you die, seek qualified financial, tax (https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Estate-and-Gift-Taxes) and estate advice.
Once you’ve determined distribution, confirm your plan. Managing money and family are usually parallel issues until the topic of estate planning arises. For some families, splitting money, property and possessions more or less equally among adult children is a smooth process. However, when it doesn’t result in the fairest outcome for everyone involved, it can be trickier to navigate. Varying situations for each child might mean that an even split won’t work. Once you are able to determine your assets, start thinking through how you can distribute them.
Re-affirm your executor and powers of attorney. Making a will and designating various health, financial and business powers of attorney as applicable are the standard first steps in estate planning. Certain kinds of trusts might also be relevant. Generally it’s good to have documents in place (http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/estateplanning) early in life. As your children get older, it’s a good idea to review those documents and designated leadership.
Start communicating. Hollywood has produced many a movie scene with family members sitting nervously in a lawyer’s office waiting for the will to be read. Such moments make for great comedy or drama, but not great modern estate planning. Based on what you hope to leave your family, the state of your relationship with your adult children and whatever weigh-in you get from qualified advisors, it’s usually better to communicate your plans to your children in advance in person and make sure your legal documents confirm exactly what you plan to do.
Bottom line: Could your current estate planning eventually put your kids and other family members at odds? Don’t wait – the time to update or start estate planning is right now.