Do Your Adult Kids Have a Clue?
We’re a small shop, and we pride ourselves on being able to really wrap our arms around our clients like they are family (well, maybe not actually family, because most of our clients seem to share way more with us than they do with their own family members). While we’re flattered and honored by the trust you place in us, not sharing information with family members can really cause a lot of heart ache and suffering. Here’s some guilt: “You don’t want your kids to suffer, do you???”
Seriously, we’re all getting older. And if you are over 70, you may not even want to admit it. In fact, you may still feel 45. But you are not. And if you have adult children, they may not have a clue at all about the State of Mom and Dad, and probably have no idea what you want your future to hold. They may be too busy, they may assume you are in great shape financially and don’t want to intrude, or they may be too fearful to ask. You may have just raised them to think it’s none of their darn business. But getting older is not something that is easy to do on your own, and you need to start thinking of what to do to get your kids involved in your long-term plan.
Think of this as part of your parenting journey. If and when you need to “switch places” with your kids and they need to help you in any way, it’s going to be scary for both of you. So, YOU be the parent now and make it easy on them by modeling good communication. At this point, it’s still up to you to make sure they are prepared. You need to not only start thinking about your plans, but also open channels of communication while you do it (because the planning will never be complete). Once you have the basics, you need to think about how to talk to the kids over time about it. The sooner you start, the slower you can go- this will give them time to absorb information and time for you to process your thoughts. If we break it down more, here’s what you should think about sharing with your kids:
Level 1: Organization and Relationships:
Where are your documents kept? Who are your advisors? Where are your medical records and who are your doctors? You can show them the basics and make introductions without giving them too many details. Think of this as a tour of the home office and a couple of email or phone introductions. Easy, peasy. No stress here!
Level 2: Thoughts and Philosophy:
This is a great dinner or brunch conversation. Hey, you can’t talk about politics these days, you might as well have something meaningful to chat about. Here, you want to outline some basic stuff for your kids like where you may want to live over time, how you feel about all types of health care and life extending treatments, spending priorities, and maybe for fun: medical marijuana. This is a great time to bring up best decisions you made as well as big dumb mistakes you made in life, as well. More than one kid? Have this conversation with them separately. Don’t worry, they’ll probably talk about it behind your back.
Level 3: Strategic Plans:
Once real trust is established this is a life changing stage for all involved. Ideally, you can hit this level BEFORE you have a major health event. You still don’t have to share dollar amounts or give them actual documents at this stage, but you start giving them more details- who your trustee is, where your accounts are, copies of powers of attorney, a list of financial institutions (as opposed to level 1 where they just know the advisor), and maybe more health history details and the treatments for them. You don’t have to wait until you are “old” to do this- and we’d argue it’s better to do it closer to age 70 and just modify it with your kids over time. It’ll give you time to practice talking to them about really important things while you can still change your mind how you want to handle it.
Level 4: Tactical Plans:
And here’s where it gets real. At this point, you are at full disclosure with your kids. If you did the work slowly over the years (read: get started early), this should not be a total shock to your kids, and you should know how they will react and help you. Here, they know your numbers, your health status and treatments, know what’s in your documents, and who is in charge and why. You know you have someone on your side.
Level 0: Not Gonna Happen:
Let’s say your family life is not going to allow this scenario to work out. Afterall, most people don’t live in a Disney movie. (Although let’s get real- in Disney movies they kill off the parents in the first few minutes.) Hopefully you can get through at least Level 1 discussions with your kids, but if you can’t then make sure your advisors and doctors know who the kids are. Have documentation in place to help your advisors and doctors help you when the time comes that you need it. If your kids won’t be the ones to help you- figure out whom that will be and get them involved. We’ll write about that (as well as the no kids scenario) later this summer.
Giving your kids a clue about your life plans is one of the most important parts of your parent/child journey. It can heal old wounds if it’s done well or create new ones if it’s not. A little bonus is, your kids may be inspired to do better with their own planning. We walk this walk with our clients regularly- if you are ready to plan for it, let us know so we can assist you.