Discussing finances with your family: Ideas and inspiration.
Talking now can save heartaches and headaches later.
- “How will we manage the bills while Dad is in assisted living?”
- “Have you designated a durable power of attorney?”
- “Where does Mom keep her will?”
- “Has anybody found the key to the safe deposit box?”
- “Does anyone know the code to opening the garage door? We can’t sell the house without it.”
Is there ever an ideal time to discuss important matters with family members? When a family member wants to discuss topics like the ones above, the most likely response is “You’re right, it’s important. But now’s not a good time. Let’s talk later.” But with busy schedules and multiple priorities, let’s face it: Sometimes “later” never comes. And when the discussion can no longer be put off, it may be too late.
What can we do?
Holidays are often a good time to at least broach the topic with other family members. More often than not, the conversation will be put off to a later date, but if you open the door and keep your resolve to have a full discussion, it can save a lot of headaches and potential heartaches.
The fact is, anytime is a good time to discuss important issues—and right now is even better. There are many advantages to talking about important family matters as soon as possible, including:
- People can explain their decisions and concerns about their estate plans, and keep their loved ones in the loop.
- Family members can express their thoughts and concerns.
- Discussions like these can strengthen family bonds, bringing the people you love closer together, and avoiding misunderstandings.
- It can offer everyone involved greater peace of mind and clarity about the future. And don’t just do it once. Try to keep the conversation going and review decisions on an annual basis—or whatever time frame is most appropriate for your family’s circumstances. And—thanks to technology—family members don’t have to be in the same room, or even continent, anymore. Email, text, Skype, web chat, Facetime—whatever helps keep the dialogue going. But sometimes a face-to-face talk with an aging parent or spouse can help put planning in motion. Whatever format you choose, just know that there is no time like right now for settling issues like: “Where do you keep the deed to the house?”
Family matters: A checklist.
Here’s a recommended list of topics to cover. Feel free to copy and use it at your family meeting, adding items as needed.
Adult family members might be encouraged to review it before an initial conversation, and then use each item as a platform for discussion. Think of it as a conversation starter:
- Do you have an updated will? (Attorneys usually recommend that all adults have one, not just senior family members.)
- Are there specific family heirlooms you would like to give to a specific family member (or something special you would like to receive some day?) These decisions can be included in your will.
- Do you have guardians for minor children?
- Do you have a durable power of attorney?
- Do you have a living will and medical power of attorney? You have a legal right to specify the level of care you wish to receive if you are incapacitated. Most of all, you can designate the individuals responsible for making such decisions.
- Are your life insurance, pension, IRA and annuity beneficiary designations current?
- Are all your important documents in one place, such as a safe deposit box? Are designated family members' names on the signature card?
- Do you have a list of important information available? This might include: bank and other account numbers, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets, as well as the names and contact information of your attorney, accountant, New York Life agent, and other professionals.
- Do you need to contact your attorney to update your will, or your New York Life agent to review your life insurance and other financial concerns?
Keeping it organized.
Sometimes it's difficult to have the answers to these questions right at your fingertips. When it comes to finances, few people have time to file all their paperwork. But it's important to know your loved ones can find your life insurance policy or will, should something come up. So, we have come up with something to help.
The LifeFolio System: Your Lifetime Financial Organizer is a financial checklist and filing system that not only helps you organize what you have, but also helps you identify what you may need down the road. Best of all, you can get one free from your New York Life agent.
In fact, even if you don't have a New York Life agent, you can simply contact one in your local area and request LifeFolio. You'll receive the entire kit when you meet with him or her for a free consultation.
Don’t wait any longer. Take the time to sit down with the people you love and discuss these important matters—then get on to the other important matters in life.