The conversation you've been putting off might be the most important one you need to have.
As tough as it will be to talk to your adult children about your final wishes, please consider the alternative. Your family might not understand how you want to be cared for when you're at your most vulnerable. Your beneficiaries might not agree on how to settle your estate. And your legacy could get tied up in years of litigation and bad blood.
Here's a brief agenda that will help you cover the basics and prepare you and your loved ones for one of life's most challenging transitions.
1. General health and financial wellness check-up.
You are under no obligation to share every single detail about your health or your finances with your children. But giving them a broad overview (with or without sharing dollar amounts) will minimize surprises down the road and ease them into their eventual roles as your personal caretakers and the caretakers of your legacy.
Please consider talking to your kids about:
- Do you have any ongoing or debilitating health care issues that will impact your ability to live independently?
- Do you have long-term care insurance and/or a dedicated health care savings bucket that will cover some expenses if you need in-home nursing or assisted living?
- Are you able to live comfortably and pay your bills every month?
- Do you have any large debts that need to be settled, including vehicles and your mortgage?
2. An overview of your estate plan.
The person that you choose to execute your estate needs to know where you keep all of your essential documents, including IDs, banking, investment and insurance information, and passwords to your online accounts.
Most importantly, your executor needs to have access to your estate plan, which should include:
- Your Last Will and Testament and Trust if have one which outlines your last wishes and explains how you want your estate to be distributed to your heirs and any other beneficiaries, such as charitable organizations.
- Power of Attorney that authorizes someone you trust to act on your behalf while you’re still alive, in the event that you are incapacitated or unable to make decisions. Be aware that your designee only has power of attorney while you are still alive.
- Your Healthcare Directive dictating how you would like to be cared for in the event that you become incapacitated.
- Your Living Will designating a person to be in charge of making important medical choices on your behalf if you are unable to. This person might use your healthcare directive as a guide, or you can explain the thought process you want your designee to go through to aid in their decision-making.
Again, you don't have to go deep into every single detail here, particularly when it comes to whom will be inheriting specific assets. However, being open about your wishes for things like real estate, vehicles, and charitable donations can help your heirs calibrate their expectations. Perhaps most importantly, be clear about the kind of care you want should you become incapacitated. Hearing your wishes in your own voice now can help your children align to those wishes even if they don't love every single decision you’ve made.
3. Assign responsibility and ask for help.
Make sure the people you grant power of attorney and designate in your living will understand what their roles will be when the time comes.
Also, talk to your family about needs you're having trouble meeting now and problems that you're anticipating. If at some point driving is becoming difficult, arrange a schedule for getting you to and from your doctor's appointments and shopping for groceries every week. You might ask one of your children to be the point person for managing your budget every month. It could also be a good idea to include a close neighbor in this conversation who will check in on you from time to time and notice if something seems wrong at your home.
4. Prepare for a follow-up conversation.
Much like your estate plan itself, nothing you and your children will discuss is set in stone. Part of our checklist-driven process at Keen Wealth includes reviewing estate plans every year to make sure your wishes are still in sync with your plan. It may be necessary to talk to your children again in the future to update them on any changes you've made to your plan or any changes to your well-being.
We consider it a real privilege to help families facilitate these complicated conversations. Get in touch and let's talk about how we can help you shore up your legacy planning before we bring your family into the discussion.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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