A recent GOBankingRates survey found that a majority of Americans — 73% — haven’t had extensive conversations with family about finances and estate planning.
“Do you know how your loved ones are managing their finances and planning for the future? If the answer is no, it may be time to have a conversation with them,” says Julie Rodkey, VP and Senior Trust Officer in Wealth Management.
“Most of us don’t like talking about finances, and especially finances related to end of life,” Julie notes. “Unfortunately, sometimes life throws us a curve ball and we’re left to make financial decisions without having the opportunity to give them the forethought and attention they deserve. So I find that it helps to prompt this conversation by asking your loved ones, no matter their age or health - if you were faced with a serious illness, or if you died today, are your financial affairs in order?”
As a trust advisor, Julie adds that these are important topics that shouldn’t be avoided because they can be difficult to talk about. “I find that it helps to prepare a little ahead of time for the conversation, to make it less uncomfortable for everyone involved,” she adds.
“Here are three areas I encourage everyone to be ready to talk about with family members,” Julie recommends:
Power of attorney: Granting a Power of Attorney (POA) is a huge commitment, because you’re recognizing that at some point in your life, you may be unable to handle decisions about your finances, Julie says. “I talk with my clients and help them think through who in their lives they trust to act in their best interests, if the time ever came that they couldn’t physically or mentally be responsible for their finances.”
Estate planning: If you aren’t sure whether your loved ones have a will, ask! Family members may want to have their will drafted by an attorney who specializes in estate planning, and you can help them contact local resources. “I usually don’t suggest online or self-prepared documents for estate planning, especially since we’re fortunate to live in a community with some of the best estate planning attorneys. Having legal documents prepared by these professionals may prompt questions that you didn’t initially give thought to,” Julie advises.
You’ll also want to think about connecting with professionals to work with on estate settlement, after a loved one has passed. “I’ve had clients who have concerns about the cost of attorney fees either in estate preparation or settlement because it can seem costly, but in most cases this is a relatively small percentage to the overall value of one’s assets when administering an estate,” Julie says.
Additionally, settling someone’s estate is a massive undertake – one that could prove to be an undue burden for a family member. “Professionals are paid to handle estate settlements for good reasons, because they can be a time consuming project,” Julie notes.
Locating important documents: Julie suggests taking time to talk with family members about where their important legal documents are kept – as well as other financial documents such as life insurance, retirement/pensions, and even car titles.
“Losing a loved one is already hard enough without having to start from scratch and figure out where paperwork is, or worrying about missing a bill payment,” Julie shares. “And with some conversation now, you and your loved ones can have peace of mind, knowing that plans are in place and that folks like us are here to help.”
To learn more about financial planning and protection for your or your loved ones, visit norrybank.com/wealth-management to connect with a team member.