Just as each of us has unique characteristics, we also have our own language. A way of organizing thoughts and communicating that makes sense to us based on our perception of the world. This makes financial communication somewhat challenging between family members. One hurdle is with spousal communication, or should I say, the lack of communication regarding financial strategies. We hear typical responses: “Oh my spouse does that, I don’t have to worry”, or “I don’t want to even discuss my spouse not having the ability to manage our affairs”. Unfortunately, these responses usually do not lead to a happy ending. Many people wonder how their children will handle their inheritance, and alternatively children are asking, “I wonder if my parents have all their finances in order?”
The first suggestion, deal with this problem head on. Get your financials in order, but in a manner the whole family can understand, not just in your language. Start with a balance sheet listing all your assets with account numbers, how they are owned, and a most recent valuation. Most of the time doing this exercise uncovers issues that need to be addressed. Most people think that their wills or trusts control who will get what when they die. Surprisingly, many assets are transferred based on provisions which can contradict but supersede your will or trust. Be sure your financial advisor and/or your estate planning attorney review all the titling of your assets to be sure they align with your estate plan. All too often, mistakes are uncovered that can cause the family unnecessary taxes and financial losses as well as a significant amount of grief.
Creating a visual flowchart of estate documents, financial assets, and cash flow for the family is most useful. Who has time to read through estate documents, and for that matter, understand legalese? Imagine taking the complex details and creating a visual that your spouse, family, or trustee can use to easily understand the foundation of your strategic financial and estate plan in just minutes!
So where do you keep all this? Somewhere easily accessible by family members, or whomever you named to step up for you.
Here in Florida, if you keep everything in a safe deposit box but you do not have an additional signor besides your spouse, it will be difficult and time consuming for someone to access your documents quickly.
Once you have things organized, don’t forget you need to communicate what you think is important for your family to know. One of the most effective ways to do this is to “call to order” a family meeting. Remember you can communicate as little or as much as you see fit, showing asset valuations or not. Have a third party involved who can facilitate the meeting with your family.
The facilitator may also help with ideas and best practices so the entire family walks away with a great experience. This will bring your family communication to a whole new level and it may also enhance your planning significantly, in ways you never imagined. In my next article, I will address the power of family meetings, and share ideas you may incorporate to get started. Until then, start by re-examining the way you document your financial and estate planning strategies and ensure they are in a format the
whole family can understand.
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps, CFP®
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps
Jill Ciccarelli Rapps, is a certified financial planner and a trained life coach and is a Partner of Ciccarelli Advisory Services Inc., a Family Focused Wealth Management Firm in Florida and New York.
Ciccarelli Advisory Services, Inc. is located at 9601 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, FL (239-262-6577) Investment advisory services offered through Ciccarelli Advisory Services, Inc., a registered investment adviser independent of FSC Securities Corporation. Securities and additional investment advisory services offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC and a registered investment adviser.
The views expressed in this article may not reflect the views of FSC Securities Corporation. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax,
legal or investment planning advice.