Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Having the ‘Inheritance Talk’ With Your Kids…or Parents
This post is going to be a little grim I warn you. You see, I am in the business of death. Life insurance is a funny industry. I speak to people about death every single day. It isn’t an easy subject to broach, but it definitely is necessary. For me, I have been able to separate myself from the emotional aspect of the discussion and make it more about life than death. I understand that that might be tough to do with family. It is only until recently that my parents and I have been able, or willing, to discuss their wishes. The goal of today’s post is to arm you with the tools to be able to have the inheritance talk with your loved ones. First, I will discuss why it is so very, very, very important to have this conversation.
Why the ‘Inheritance Talk” is important
Tupac Shakur (Died 1996) Estate valued at 40 Million Dollars
Prince (Died 2016) Estate valued at 300 Million Dollars
Michael Jackson (Died 2009) Estate valued at 500 Million Dollars
Can you believe that Michael Jackson actually made 825 Million dollars in 2016? 7 years after his death he earned more than any artist living or dead that year. Can you also believe that all these famous people died WITHOUT a will? They died with literally no instructions for their loved ones to follow. Can you also believe that Michael Jackson is my 2nd cousin twice removed and yet I am still waiting on my cheque to come in the mail? He never returned my calls when he was alive either…
Whether you have an estate the size of these stars or not, the conversation is vitally important. You have wishes that you want to be followed. These wishes can only be followed if they are communicated. These wishes can only be carried out if you have a will. I have seen nightmare scenarios that happen to everyday people. Relatives who are not even a part of the family become owners of a cherished property. Children who are in desperate need of help not receive what rightfully theirs. Brothers and sisters fighting over something as trivial as a China Cabinet. We work so hard our whole lives to create a better life for those around us and then we give up control of our possessions to lawyers, judges, and the government. Even better, they charge you an exorbitant fee while they are incorrectly fulfilling your wishes. That’s why it’s important. So, let’s jump into how to have the conversation.
Choose the right time
It may seem like a great idea to have the talk when you are gathered around the Christmas table. Wrong. The holidays are an emotional time for everyone. You have everyone under one roof. Everyone is stressed from the season and kids screaming and your racist uncle. This time is meant to relax and unwind with family, not discuss personal matters pertaining to money. You are apt to get an “All I wanted was a nice Christmas Dinner” from mom when you bring this up. Focus on a time where the stresses of the day are at their lowest. Go visit on a weekend, when you can be alone with your immediate family. Make sure your kids or parents are in a good state before you go and understand that this talk may go sideways quick.
Make it about love, not money or things
I used to think inheritances were about money. That was until I saw the things I’ve seen since being in this industry. Leaving money behind is about love, not money. When you die, you now have nothing. Everything you have must go somewhere. The fact that you give what you have to someone is because you love them. Now you might leave your annoying poodle to your cousin because you don’t quite like them, but generally, it’s about love. When having the talk, it is important to understand the numbers involved are just numbers. Whether your dad leaves you his last 5 bucks or his last 5 million, he left you everything. Your talk with your mom and dad, or your kids, must be about the fact that you all love each other and because you love each other you want wishes to be fulfilled. There is no amount of money that can bring someone back to life, so focus on the things that you can control.
The subject of death is obviously a touchy one. Tread lightly, very lightly. Understand that the person on the other end of the conversation might be uncomfortable so patience is needed. Don’t discuss the death part as much and focus on the wishes part. What is their wish? What do they want to happen? What was the goal of working as hard as they did, or saving as much as they did? Focus on the things that make them happy, or you happy, such as being able to leave something to the next generation. If it is your kids that you are talking with, understand that they might not want to think about a day when you are not here anymore. Speak about what it was like to lose your parents or grandparents, and what you and your family had to deal with. Speak about how you want to make that transition easier for them, so they can have fond memories during their time of grief, not a hassle to unravel.
When speaking to your parents be frank about your intentions. I know I worry that my parents will think that I am greedy or hoping to get a huge amount when they die. I make a point of letting them know I could care less about anything I receive and would be happy if my folks passed with their last dollar in their pockets. I also let them know I am here to help, and I want them to know that they do not have to stay up late worrying about what will happen to their legacy when they pass. It’s what I owe them, even if they say I don’t owe them a thing. Again, it’s about love, not money. If there is something that I do not want to handle, I let them know that as well. The enemy of love is uncertainty. Everyone in the conversation needs to be certain about the circumstances. When this occurs, love becomes the central focus.
Maybe you want the annoying poodle instead of your cousin. Maybe you feel it is unfair the way the estate will be divided. It is important to understand that this conversation will never go anywhere if emotion dictates the talk. Always remain calm and always leave your heart at the door. The reason why I can have these conversations with families about their wishes is that my emotions get left out of it. If you hear something you don’t like, don’t flip out. Never raise voices, never say things you don’t mean. Everyone has their reasons for doing what they do, and they need to be respected, even if it is not what you want to hear.
Do it sooner, rather than later
It is vitally important to have this conversation as soon as you can. The reason is simple, anything can happen. I have seen young children trusted upon unexpected family members. I have seen houses lost in the blink of an eye. I have seen families ripped apart over trivial items. I have seen it take years to settle an estate all the while lawyers are getting rich. Think about it this way: This conversation needs to be had at some point in time. When would you rather have it? When you are alive and it can make a difference or when you are dead, and everyone must assume what your wishes are? Time heals all, except when there is no more time and when you die, there is no more time. Take some time now to start these conversations. It may take a few tries and it may take a few cries, but get the train moving. Death always brings sadness and it always brings grief. It doesn’t have to bring money stress along with it.
“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
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