Time for a Family Meeting

By Sarah Hanneken, CTFA – Trust Officer & Relationship Manager

The topic of finances is often considered a taboo subject. From an early age, we are taught it is impolite to discuss money, and if at all possible, to avoid the topic altogether. However, in order to fully prepare ourselves and our loved ones for a major life event, we need to have these conversations. Without this communication, surviving family members (especially adult children) are faced with a multitude of unknowns. Many are given roles they don’t fully understand. They may feel as though they have no one to contact should the time come when they need to fulfill those roles. It is risky to merely assume that our family members understand our own financial needs and philosophies. Inviting your adult children to the conversation can have a positive effect on how they view this impending responsibility.

Far too often, I meet adult children only after either one or both of their parents have passed. In some cases, these adult children are oblivious to the parents’ financial information, and (in extreme cases) are uncertain whether or not there is even a Will or Living Trust to administer. They come to our office not knowing where to start, unsure of their obligations, and overwhelmed with not only the loss they feel for their parent, but by the responsibilities and obligations passed to them as well. A great amount of this anxiety can be avoided by having an open conversation about your finances. Introducing your adult children to your trusted financial advisor is a great way to initiate this dialogue, and alleviate future tension.

Your financial advisor can help facilitate a conversation between you and your children that will provide them with a better understanding of your intentions and impending needs. By introducing your children to your advisor, you are presenting them with a valuable resource and empowering them to learn more about how best to manage your affairs. They will now have a personal and familiar connection to help them in the event of your incapacitation or death.

During the initial introduction, there is no need to go into specifics about your finances, and you will not be expected to provide a financial report to those in the room. This meeting is intended to be a casual opportunity for your children to ask questions about the financial firm. It should also be an opportunity for your advisor to explain the role of a Personal Representative or Trustee. This is especially important if you have chosen to appoint your children within your documents.

If you have chosen to name your child as a Personal Representative and/or a Trustee, your advisor can provide the needed education and resources to ensure they feel capable of handling your assets. By opening the conversation, your advisor can help ease the potential anxiety your children may feel when learning of their expected role.

Conversely, if you have instead chosen to name a corporate entity as your Personal Representative or Trustee, your advisor can educate your children on the administration process and explain the role of a Corporate Fiduciary. This open conversation can help reduce any potential animosity your children may feel by not being appointed in your documents. After the advisor has described the settlement process, your children may gain a better understanding as to why you chose a corporate entity.

Overall, this meeting can encourage your children to learn more about finances, provide them with a direct personal contact at your investment firm, and give you a sense of comfort in knowing you have lifted some of the burden. This truly is a genuine gift you can offer your children.

Please contact your relationship manager if you would like to schedule an advisor-facilitated family meeting, or are interested in learning more.