When to speak to your adult children about your finances - the time is now

Victoria A. Hemiup, BridgeTower Media Newswires

The percentage of people that like to discuss their personal finances with a family member is surprisingly small. However, it is important for your adult children to be aware of your finances so that they can respect your wishes upon your death. The passing of a parent is a very emotional time, and trying to find and sort through information that could have been provided prior to the death makes a great deal of fiscal sense.

I once had a family member who died and had all his important documents stored in grocery bags. As my family sorted through the mess, there was a sense of frustration and downright anger. Do you really want to do that to your children?

At the very least, the location of important documents needs to be shared. In my case, the attorney has all the original wills, powers of attorney and health care proxies for my husband and me for safekeeping. Our copies provide the contact information for the attorney. Our children know that these documents have been prepared, who the executors and powers of attorney are and the attorney they need to contact.

Get yourself a personal financial organizer. There are several versions to purchase. Upon completion, your survivors will be able to locate insurance, financial and retirement savings information. They will also have knowledge of your Social Security, real estate and personal property, business interest and tax information. These organizers can also provide a list of professional contacts, the location of important documents as well as your funeral information. Having all this information in one document will save your loved ones a great deal of time and energy. Of course, this is a document that will need to be updated as life changes.

Introduce your children to your financial adviser. Invite them to a meeting with the adviser. In many cases children become the beneficiaries of an IRA or a trust. Having someone that they know and they know their parents trusted will make opening inherited IRA accounts and other types of accounts much easier.

If the loss of a spouse creates the need for a child to be your power of attorney or the person listed on your health care proxy, inform all of your children the reason behind your selection process when deciding which child gets which job.

How much you want to share with your children before your death is really a personal decision based on each family’s individual dynamics. It is suggested at the very least you share the details of your will with your children preferably at the same time. This is especially important if assets are not going to be distributed evenly across all children. If this is the case, explain to your children why you made the decisions you did in dividing assets.

These discussions for some families are not easy. It brings up your own mortality as well as your child’s acknowledgement that at some point in time they will lose a parent. However, not being prepared for the inevitable is far worse than an uncomfortable discussion between family members. Plan a meeting with all of your children — separate from a holiday gathering. You will be glad you did.


Victoria A. Hemiup is an assistant vice president at Karpus Investment Management, a local independent, registered investment advisor managing assets for individuals, corporations, non-profits and trustees. Offices are located at 183 Sully’s Trail, Pittsford, NY 14534, (585) 586-4680).