Not talking to your adult children about estate planning can be an expensive mistake. Some $68 trillion will move between generations in the next two decades, reports U.S. News & World Report in the article “Discuss Your Estate Plan With Your Children.” Having this conversation with your adult children, especially if they are members of Generation X, could have a profound impact on the quality of your relationship and your legacy.
Staying on top of your estate plan and having candid discussions with your children will also have an impact on how much of your estate is consumed by estate taxes. The historically high federal exemptions are not going to last forever—even without any federal legislation, they sunset in 2025, which isn’t far away.
One of the purposes of your estate plan is to transfer money as you wish. What most people do is talk with an estate planning attorney to create an estate plan. They create trusts, naming their child as the trustee, or simple wills naming their child as the executor. Then, the parents drop the ball.
Talk with your children about the role of trustee and/or executor. Help them understand the responsibilities that these roles require and ask if they will be comfortable handling the decision making, as well as the money. Include the person you appointed as your Agent under a Power of Attorney in your discussion.
What most parents refuse to discuss with their children is money, plain and simple. Children will be better equipped, if they know what financial institutions hold your accounts and are introduced to your estate planning attorney, CPA and financial advisor.
If your children have a working understanding of your finances, estate plan and your wishes, they will be able to get going and you will have spared them an estate scavenger hunt. If possible, hold a family meeting with your advisors, so everyone is comfortable and up to speed.
Most adult children do not have the same experience with taxes as parents who have acquired wealth over their lifetimes. They may not understand the concepts of qualified and non-qualified accounts, step-up in cost basis, life insurance proceeds, or a probate asset versus a non-probate asset. It is critical that they understand how taxes impact estates and investments. By explaining things like tax-free distributions from a Roth IRA, for instance, you will increase the likelihood that your life savings aren’t battered by taxes.
Even if your adult children work in finance, do not assume they understand your investments, your tax-planning, or your estate. Even the smartest people make expensive mistakes, when handling family estates.
Having these discussions is not just a way to avoid an expensive mistake, it is another way to show your children that you care enough to set your own ego aside and are thinking about their future. It’s a way to connect not just about your money or your taxes, but about their futures. Knowing that you purchased a life insurance policy specifically to provide them with money for a home purchase, or to fund a grandchild’s college education, sends a clear message. Don’t miss the opportunity to share that with them, while you are living.
Reference: U.S. News & World Report (Feb. 17, 2021) “Discuss Your Estate Plan With Your Children”