Money Relationships Set the Stage for Estate Planning

by | Sep 1, 2021 | estate and tax planning, family law and estate planning

“There’s a common cultural myth that says people don’t talk about money,” writes Jacquette Timmons in Financial Planning Magazine.

Timmons disagrees – we talk about money all the time, just not enough about “the missing pieces” of the money conversation, she says, referring to the emotional dimensions of money:

  • transparency
  • power
  • intimacy

Three questions Timmons suggests financial advisors pose to their clients include:

  1. What conversations about money matters are you not having? Why? Does it feel awkward?
  2. With whom do you share your savings and investment goals? How do you choose these people and what influences how much you disclose to them?
  3. When do you share how much you’ve paid for something?

In a very real sense, we know at Geyer Law, the very same questions of power, transparency, and intimacy relate to conversations about estate planning.

While parents and grandparents are under no obligation to divulge the details of their wills or trusts, letting beneficiaries know what they can expect to inherit can avoid later conflicts among heirs and misunderstandings about your intentions. .

Huntsville, Alabama attorney Andrew J. Bolton explains why talking to heirs about your will can be productive. Many individuals hesitate to disclose the details of their wills to their heirs, he says, because they fear being pressured to change their decisions. But your estate planning provisions are entirely yours to make and no one should pressure you to change your mind, Bolton says. On the other hand, he suggests, “it isn’t unreasonable to listen to the responses of your heirs and consider making adjustments should they make sense to you.”

At our own Indiana estate planning law firm, we often host (either virtually or in-person) family meetings where clients can openly share with loved ones the values and assumptions underlying legacy plans and healthcare directives. Yes, there are always emotional overtones to conversations about money, perhaps to an even greater extent when it comes to leaving property to heirs.

When family members succeed in overcoming the inevitable awkwardness surrounding the topics of healthcare, marriage choices, disability, and death, the resulting transparency almost inevitably adds power and increases intimacy.

– by Rebecca W Geyer