It’s time for a new addition to traditional financial planning: We call it “The Family Meeting.”
This kind of meeting serves as a platform for discussing a family’s “legacy,” a term we use broadly to include the many financial and personal aspects that need to be addressed between parents and their future generations. Of course, we’re talking about things like wills and powers of attorney, but are just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond these standard necessities, there are many issues that need to be discussed, from retirement needs and elder care, to legacy planning that involves not just estate distribution, but personal wishes and desires as well.
These are tough and emotional issues. Talking about them can be extremely difficult, and unfortunately, as a result, such conversations often don’t happen. One way to avoid this obstacle is to choose a professional who acts as a “legacy advisor,” not only initiating the process but also guiding a family each step along the way, to assure that this process ends up as a cherished memory, rather than a dreaded chore. The goal is to get people to do the difficult things they know they should, but just don’t want to do.
At the top of the list of issues is the question, “What will happen to an aging parent when they are unable to take care of themselves?” However hard it is for adult children to deal with their parents’ eventual infirmity, it’s necessary. In fact, it’s liberating for parents and children to be involved in deciding their future together, instead of being forced to make those difficult decisions in a crisis mode.
One of the biggest tasks is deciding what roles various siblings will the play:
- Who will be main person in charge of care?
- Who will be the main person in charge of financial matters?
- Who will the parent live with, if necessary, and where?
- When would you want to go to an adult care facility?
- Who has powers of attorney and the health care proxy?
- How will differences between siblings be resolved?
Whenever possible, families should talk to a senior housing specialist and visit assisted living facilities while everyone is still healthy, so everyone’s input is taken into consideration.
Another major area that families must address is how to best deal with their various financial issues and options. The biggest threat to financial security for seniors is not inflation nor even recession. It’s an unreimbursed and unexpected long term care expense. To guard against such occurrences a family’s assets must be arranged so they’re “bullet-proofed” against any unexpected medical costs, and correctly balanced to create a guaranteed retirement income that cannot be outlived. Sometimes a solution to an individual’s situation isn’t increasing expenses but merely rearranging those assets in a more tax efficient manner. The net result of doing so is being able to more efficiently maximize those assets that they’ve earmarked for the next and succeeding generations.
Another area of discussion involves sitting down with children and grandchildren to explain how we’d like to be remembered. For example, do your children know how you feel toward charitable giving and continuing a legacy beyond your life? Do they know who your favorite charity is? Have you passed down your values, traditions and wishes–as well as the stories that you would want your children and grandchildren to remember and treasure in years to come? Have you considered recording these wishes through audio- or videography?
All in all, having such a meeting is one of the most important things we can do for our families. Doing so will not only maximize our assets, but more important, allow us to participate in making those choices that will directly affect our future, ahead of time, rather than waiting for others to decide the future for us.