It’s difficult to grapple with our own mortality, and it is often harder for our children to do so. As you settle into financial security and begin to ponder your plans for retirement, do not shy away from estate planning. You will never be able to entirely remove the pain your children will suffer after your death, but estate planning can help remove all of the extraneous stress and frustration they may feel if you were to leave it to chance. Here are 5 ways to lessen the burden on your family at any stage in life, should the unthinkable happen to you.
1. Talking to Your Kids About Death
Your small children may not be the best candidates for philosophical discussions regarding death and mortality, but you will be surprised at just how much they pick up on. Even if you don’t experience any major deaths in the family until your children are grown, you do not want your children to be blindsided as adults by the idea of death. In their adolescence, make yourself available as a resource willing to answer any questions they have about mortality—be it yours, their own, or someone else’s. When it comes time to attend a funeral or wake, tell your children exactly what is happening and why. Keep them involved in the process, and you will take as much mystery and fear out of it as you can.
2. Preparing Adult Children
Hopefully, exposing your children to the reality of death in their adolescence will help equip them to deal with your mortality as they mature. As you grow older, be open and honest about your retirement options, your financial situation, and how you expect your estate to be distributed after your death. If there are any disagreements between your children over assets, you ought to quickly stamp it out, and if need be, consult with a family therapist to work out any lingering resentments or feelings of abandonment your children may be feeling.
Your adult children may or may not have made peace with your mortality, but you still want them to be in the best fiscal position possible after your death, even if their emotional journey is not quite complete. Consider involving your adult children in any homebuying decisions and broaching the subject of a shared, multi-generational home with them. Be honest about your expectations and the family dynamic you have with your children and any children they might have before proposing this idea.
3. Be Prepared to Answer Tough Questions—For Everyone’s Sake
Life is often complex and can get messy at times. Even if you have accepted your mortality and have made plans for your family after your death, it is perfectly natural to want to move aside any clutter and make the process as smooth as possible. But you are going to have to answer tough questions lobbed at you and your partner by your estate planner. Dodging or hedging around them is not a viable option. This could make or break the fiscal security of your family after your death, so you need to be honest and open with your estate planner. Further, you need to encourage your spouse or partner to do the same. Remind them that there is no judgment, and you need to be able to have an open dialogue with your planner for the good of everyone involved.
4. Consider a Testamentary Trust
“These trusts, which are contained within your final will and testament, are a way of handing assets down to children, relatives with disabilities, or others who may not be ready to handle the responsibility for themselves at the time of your death,” says Peck Ritchey, LLC. For families with young children, this is especially important. You will need a trustee to oversee the management of assets within the trust until your children come of age. This is a decision vital to the smooth distribution of a trust, and it is not one to be taken lightly. If you feel as though a testamentary trust is right for you, consult with an attorney about your options and what other factors warrant consideration.
5. Keep Your Plan Up to Date
Every five years, revisit your estate and your plans for its distribution after death and take care that your plan still reflects your values as well as any changes in circumstances that might have taken place since you last reviewed your estate. Revisit your plans with your beneficiaries, and take into account their changing lives as well. Perhaps the heir who desperately needed a home five years ago now has a thriving business and no longer needs the extra help, while your daughter just recently gave birth to a baby who has special needs and will need financial assistance for the rest of its life. Both circumstances are worthy of consideration in your estate planning, but you will only be able to take into account all of these changing needs if you take pains to keep aware of them.
For more great family planning tips, check out the other blogs on Cyber Parent.