How to talk about managing family finances

There never seems to be an ideal time to discuss important matters with family members. Learn more about the importance of talking to your family about inheritance, guardianship, and living wills.

A multi-generational family sitting around the table having dinner.

Important questions like the ones below never seem to get answered or considered until it’s too late:

  • “How will we manage the bills while Dad is in assisted living?”
  • “Does Dad have a durable power of attorney?”
  • “Where does Mom keep her will?”
  • “Has anybody found the key to the safe deposit box?”

Consider the following when trying to discuss financial planning with family members.

The best time to discuss family finances

Holidays are often a good time to at least broach the topic with other family members. Often, 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.

However, anytime is a good time to discuss important issues. 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 air their concerns.
  • Discussions like these can strengthen family bonds, bringing the people you love closer together and avoiding misunderstandings.
  • Discussions 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.
  • Thanks to technology, family members don’t have to be in the same room, or even on the same 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 the present for settling issues like “Where do you keep the deed to the house?”
An older man talking at a table with his son.

Family and finances checklist

Here’s a recommended list of topics to cover. Feel free to copy it 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:

  1. Do you have an updated will? (Attorneys usually recommend that all adults have one, not just senior family members.)
  2. Are there specific family heirlooms you would like to give to specific family members, or is there something special you would like to receive some day? These decisions can be included in a will.
  3. Do you have guardians for minor children?
  4. Do you have a durable power of attorney?
  5. Do you have a living will and/or a medical power of attorney? You have a legal right to specify the level of care you wish to receive if you are incapacitated. Most importantly, you can designate the individuals responsible for making such decisions.
  6. Are your life insurance, pension, IRA, and annuity beneficiary designations current?
  7. Are all your important documents in one place, such as a safe deposit box? Are designated family members' names on the signature card?
  8. Do you have an available list of important information? This might include bank accounts, retirement accounts, other financial accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets, as well as the names and contact information of your attorney, accountant, New York Life agent, and other professionals.
  9. Do you need to contact your attorney to update your will, or do you need to contact your New York Life agent to review your life insurance and other financial concerns?

Managing family financial information

Sometimes it's difficult to have the answers to these questions right at your fingertips. 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 with the other important matters in life.


Want to learn more about financial strategizing and managing family finances?

A New York Life financial professional can help determine what’s right for you.