When it comes to financial matters, it’s common for family members to have different visions, ideas and values, which can sometimes lead to breakdowns in trust and communication. As you gather with family for the holidays, consider having a frank, open discussion – a family huddle – about family financial matters and your plans and wishes. These open dialogues can help prevent problems long before they start. Here are some guidelines on how to lead a family huddle.
As soon as possible, in fact. By holding these meetings years before they’re critically needed, you can control the conversation and approach more sensitive topics in a positive way. The holidays can be a good time for these discussions, since everyone is already gathered together and typically in a positive frame of mind.
For some families, this might mean immediate family members only; for others, it’s extended relatives, too. You’ll have to decide what’s right for your family, but at the very least, you and your spouse or partner should be on the same page. Having one-on-one conversations with certain members before the family gathering may also help you create a constructive agenda and avoid surprises.
Topics of discussion will vary, but consider discussing matters that impact the smooth transition of wealth. These might include the location of estate documents, succession plans for a business, intentions behind distribution guidelines, and even funeral and burial preferences. Also be mindful of life changes among family members (births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc.) that can affect legacy planning. As you discuss these topics, allow family members to express their thoughts, feelings and questions.
After the huddle, review what was discussed and how new information may impact your financial and estate plans. Consider introducing those family members who are or will be closely involved in your affairs to your professional advisors (accountants, lawyers, financial advisors, etc.) if you feel it’s appropriate. And most importantly, plan to huddle up again to keep the conversation going.