Educating Your Next Generation

Key Takeaways:
  • Our most successful planning relationships are those in which we work with our client’s other professional advisors – and their children and heirs as well.
  • Involving heirs in your financial and estate planning makes the next generation’s estate administration job much easier.
  • You do not have to tell them every detail, but at a minimum, we would recommend telling your children with whom you work on your finances. 

After reviewing an incredibly complicated and intricate estate planning strategy in a recent meeting with a longtime client, I turned to her and said, “This is why I have a job.”  The comment was not meant to reaffirm our value, but to acknowledge how complicated personal financial and estate planning has become.  Sure, saving and basic investing can be done on your own, but trying to diligently, and more important, competently coordinate all aspects of one’s financial life can seem overwhelming.  


In our most successful planning relationships, we work with typically no fewer than five other professionals – a typical list would include a client’s estate attorney, CPA, life/long-term care/disability agent, homeowner’s agent, and personal banker.  In some cases, we also involve real estate agents, mortgage brokers, and I have even gone so far as to work with a car dealership to assure proper asset titling was in place on a car purchase.  We strive to act as a connector between all areas affecting a client’s financial life, but there is one area we cannot serve, at least as effectively: the involvement of the next generation.


Who ELSE do we work with?
  • Estate Attorneys
  • CPAs
  • Long-Term Care Agents
  • Homeowner Agents
  • Personal Bankers
  • Brokers
  • And more!


The Next Generation

Frankly, the best planning relationships are those that involve the next generation.  Many parents seem hesitant to share details of their situation with their children either out of fear of creating complacency, or fear of embarrassment for lack of preparation.  I often tell clients “You should share this information with your kids, but you don’t have to tell them every detail.”  

On many occasions, I have been one of the first phone calls after a client has passed away.  Although I find zero joy in being the first recipient of bad news, I am humbled that clients have made it clear to survivors that we are there to help.  For those clients who took my advice and shared their plans with their children, the process is much smoother.  

We establish a timeline for moving forward with the attorney and re-confirm assets and how they will flow.  For those clients who have failed to give their children a full understanding of how the process should start, the timeline is much more elongated and frustrating.  One of the first questions I ask my clients who are going through the estate planning process is “Who is the first person you would want your heirs to call?”  We strive to achieve a level of trust with our clients so that we can serve this role for their families.


The Estate Plan 

In completing my own estate plan, I tried to imagine what my wife would face if something happened to me. How could I make it as easy on her as possible?  We maintain a file in our house (it should be in a fire-proof safe) with copies of all estate planning documents, insurance policies, and a list of contacts related to banking and investment accounts.  The file also has information on how to reach my attorney.   Most importantly, I told her to call our office because that is where I know there are people who can help (shameless plug, but true).  

So, what goes in the file?

  • All estate planning documents
  • Insurance policies
  • Contacts related to banking and investment accounts
  • Attorney contact information


Working With Children

Our children are not yet to the age where discussing our plans would be fruitful, but I do recommend doing so as early as college-age (if not earlier).  Your children do not have to know exactly what you have, but they should at least know whom you work with on your finances.  Interestingly, I not only see relief in my clients but also in their children.  I am consistently amazed at how many children fear that their parents’ affairs are not in order.  Bequeathing an administrative mess to your children is no gift.  


When my father passed away in 2002, his estate was a mess.  He had received poor advice from an attorney (who did not specialize in estate planning) and several oversights could have been easily avoided.  Since he worked in banking for years, I assumed that he would have received greater counsel in setting up his affairs.  I finally had everything settled after eighteen months, but it occurred to me that he was likely no different than many others.  Not coincidentally, I founded the company that would become Ballast soon thereafter.

Sharing information with your children and heirs does not have to upend any of the privacy you want to maintain.    I have clients that give their children nothing but our phone number, and others that go so far as to give their heirs copies of their statements.  Neither method is incorrect.  The most important task is to make sure you can make it as easy as possible on the people you care about.


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