When we’re able to pause and catch up with our family members, conversations often revolve around “safe” commonalities such as family, sports, entertainment, health, and relationships… maybe even gossip! Occasionally, taboo subjects find their way into these conversations. You know the type: politics, religion, and money. When it comes to money, the conversations usually remain surface-level. You may chat about how you plan to spend massive amounts of lottery winnings, dreams of buying that shore house, the ridiculous cost of college tuition, or the volatile investment markets; rarely are these conversations productive.

When a family wants to have conscious discussions around money, it can be helpful to include a facilitator, such as a trusted advisor, that can educate the family about the roles and goals of planning. A facilitator can ask the tough questions, ensure there is consensus, and help create an executable action plan.

I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate many productive family meetings. One involved a discussion between generations: the parents, aged 83 and 90, and their three daughters, aged between 55 to 65.

The goals of the meeting were as follows:

Discuss the Parent’s Plan for Aging in Place

  • What are the resources needed to make sure the house was safe to navigate? Who will be responsible for helping them maintain it?
  • Who will keep track of important financial items such as paying bills, maintaining documents and filing their taxes?
  • Who are their doctors and what medications are they currently taking?

Review their Estate Planning Documents

  • Who has been selected for which role: executor, trustee, healthcare power of attorney and financial power of attorney? Does the selection still make sense? Agree upon necessary changes.
  • Who do non-financial items go to? Who wants what?

Vision of the Family Legacy

  • What would they like their legacy to be?
  • What traditions and values would they like to be maintained?

Afterward, I asked them whether they thought the family meeting was helpful.  They shared that they would have never thought of bringing some of the topics discussed to light; they felt they may be too emotionally charged.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot more to planning than simply the numbers! While the numbers are certainly important, communication between generations can help a family fill in the missing pieces. This openness and heartfelt conversations can be truly invaluable.

I leave you with these questions to ponder…

  • What are the real conversations you should be having with your family members?
  • What does your family need to know about the plan you have in place?
  • What do you need to know about your elderly parent(s) situation?
  • What changes are needed and how can they be brought about?
  • Who can help you with the conversation?