The weekend is over. During the last two days your family came together and had that “talk,” but before everyone goes their separate ways; some follow-up is required. Here are some of the things you should make sure are accomplished.
As readers may recall, in this series we have covered a wide variety of subjects from leaving your legacy to collecting and reviewing all of your assets. Trusts, insurance policies, tax deferred savings plans, wills, living wills and durable powers of attorney are just some of the items we have discussed.
We have talked about the family meeting and who should attend. Be sure that someone is responsible for taking notes during this event because you will need them in the future.
According to Bob Mauterstock, an author of two books on estate planning and an expert on the subject, this is an on-going process. In his book “Passing the Torch,” he recommends that you leverage this “first” in family communication and make a habit of discussing family affairs as part of an on-going process.
The first thing you should do is review the notes taken at the meeting. What areas need to be followed-up? Do you have some family members with special needs, for example, that were not addressed? Maybe you are on a second marriage with children from the first; has your family meeting covered these issues? These are just two examples of topics that might remain outstanding and require more work. Ask various family members to pursue any loose ends that were not resolved during the meeting. Be sure everyone (including you) has a dead-line to report back or accomplish individual tasks.
Give everyone six months and then review what progress has been made and what still needs to be done. That may not require the family’s physical presence. Much of it can be done on the telephone or e-mail. However, you might consider making this family meeting an annual event. It does not have to be as long as the first one and can simply include updates on the issues still outstanding, as well as new issues that may have arisen over the last 12 months.
In any case, it is a good idea to plan and hold a financial meeting with your spouse every year. This is the time you set aside to review your financial and retirement goals. Schedule a specific date that is agreeable to both of you. Do the same thing, if you can, to meet with your individual children.
If there is one thing you can count on by now is that the lives of your children are going to change. An annual meeting where they can sit down with you and review their finances, debts they may have (or are thinking of assuming) and talk about whatever else is on their mind is a blessing in disguise for both of you. Help them to plan and establish long-term goals. For many young adults this will be a new concept and they will need your help thinking this through.
Not only will this be invaluable for their future well-being, but it will also serve to deepen your relationship with them– if it is done right. If you are the type that “tells,” rather than “advises,” chances are your kids will avoid a second encounter like the plague. Don’t let that happen. In these meetings you should act as a coach and confidant, rather than as the boss who knows best.
This series has by no means exhausted the subject of estate planning. Once again, I strongly recommend that you pick up copies of Bob Mauterstocks’ books—“Passing the Torch” and “Can We Talk.” They are an easy read and will help you immeasurably. If you have any further questions you can call or e-mail at the address below.