With life expectancy rates continuing to climb in the United States, Ken Dychtwald, author of Age Wave, predicts that financial planners might soon be managing six generations in a single family. For the older generation, one primary challenge is going from accumulating wealth to distributing it. “It’s not just an economic thing,” Dychtwald says, “It’s a psychological thing.”
At Geyer Law, we understand that challenge, knowing that family dynamics are often intertwined with legal and estate planning issues. In fact, estate planning by its very definition, involves three sensitive topics – money, death, and family affairs. As advisors, we take a very compassionate approach, understanding that both wealth management and wealth transfer tend to be interwoven with emotions.
Not all the emotional challenges involve transferring assets from an older generation to a younger one. Sometimes helping a son or daughter – or grandson or granddaughter – transition into the next phase of growth involves making sure proper “just-in-case” documents have been drafted. As legal adults, the Law Review reminds college-age kids who may not yet own significant property or financial assets, that they still need a plan. As Law Review explains, “Who is going to have access to and take care of your social media and email accounts if you are incapacitated?”
Millennials are moving into “the sandwich generation” at a younger age than their parents did, according to the SCAN Foundation. With children and careers of their own to manage, many millennials spend a good part of their week on caretaking for parents or grandparents.
Family “financial sabotage” happens when family members lend relatives their own hard-earned money, invoking FOG feelings (fear, obligation, guilt) on both ends, a CNBC article points out. Still, when a family member has, through an illness or no-fault accident, fallen behind financially, cash infusions may be warranted. Blended families are on the rise, involving stepchildren who live with the new couple, according to the National Center for family & Marriage Research.
Longevity planning encompasses a number of vitally important areas, including lifetime gifts of assets, housing issues, and tax planning. The core complication concerns weighing how much the donors might need to support their own now longer lifestyles, while still giving as much outright while they’re alive to help the next generation whose needs may be manifest now.
Estate planning – it’s not just an economic thing (as we’ve been seeing time and again with our clients), but a process fraught with emotion.
– by Rebecca W. Geyer
generations male family members together.