Inheritance: A Hard but Necessary Conversation

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Three generation family dinner

Source: kate_sept2004 / Getty

Money is rarely an easy topic to bring up, add death and it’s understandable why so many families choose to simply just skirt the issue. Considering planning for your family’s well-being is something we should all be doing and the importance of planning has been highlighted by the ongoing global pandemic and its impact on our communities

The good news is that change starts with a simple conversation.

Many people have received, or at least heard of folks who’ve received, an inheritance, the act of passing down assets, things of value, to family members after a person passes away. But folks are often more likely to discuss other people’s financial situations than their own. That means terms such as assets, bank account balances, end-of-life plans and death must become a staple during those lively kitchen table discussions.

“Whether we talk about it or not, death is an inevitable part of life. One of the easiest ways to talk about [wealth and inheritance] is to use examples of people who did not set up their will or estates the right way and the family paid for it,” says Ash “Cash” Exantus, chief financial educator of Mind Right Money Management. “For example, we’ve all read stories about celebrities who’ve died without wills and had their estates handled in ways many fans believe would have been unwanted.”

Celebrities are not alone. We’ve all heard stories of families who’ve been thrown into chaos when a relative dies without a will or inherited impressive sums, homes or businesses simply to lose it all. That’s why experts believe the most important part of legacy building isn’t how much you have but how much information is shared. Financial education can start with reading books, websites, watching videos or enrolling in online self-guided courses about inheritance planning. Of course, hiring an attorney to review assets and inheritance is always a good idea too.

There is another important step, the buy-in.

Consider setting up a talk with family members as a group to set your team’s  intention. Make it clear that money conversations are needed to ensure your family’s potential is maximized and secured. Don’t forget to do some information level setting. For example, make sure everyone has an understanding of basic terminology like what constitutes an asset—and be prepared to explain things in laymen’s terms when needed. For instance, a new car looks good but the moment it is driven off the lot, it depreciates, meaning it loses its value. While a person could bequeath the vehicle — that is, leave or give via a will — it would not be considered an inheritance that increases in value over time. However, investments such as real estate, life insurance, stocks and bonds appreciate, so it gains monetary value.

Though acquiring an inheritance and building financial stability for your family involves creating an asset strategy, you don’t have to be well off to pass down financial security, just focused. “In many cases generational wealth is depleted by the third generation so an inheritance without education can defeat the purpose,” adds Exantus.

Creating an inheritance is achievable for people of all incomes, whether you have $5000, $50,000 or more than $100,00 to leave. And, even a few dollars invested in the right places can result in big opportunities and change for loved ones.

Exantus offers one last piece of advice: “Regardless of the amount that’s left, having the right financial knowledge to know how to invest in money is key. Once you have income-producing assets, they can stay in the family forever and allow financial stability to be passed down.”


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