Starting the Conversation


Advice on how to talk about your will and values with your children

Part One of a Two-Part series

It is time to update our wills. When we last made them our kids were in junior high and elementary school; now, they both have University degrees and their own careers. But our kids aren’t the only ones who have changed. My wife and I are in a different space now too.

We find ourselves much closer to retirement. We have more money than we once did, and we have more stuff too. Our priorities have changed as well. Instead of worrying about who will care for our kids if something happens to us, we wonder what they might do with an inheritance.

Years of working with clients has given me ample evidence of how important will planning is, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It means some tough conversations, and no one likes to contemplate their own death. Will planning means talking about who gets what when you die but it is also a conversation about values. What is important to you? What legacy do you want to leave? And what, beyond money and stuff, do you want to leave to your kids and grandkids? It’s heavy stuff, and like any other big project, it might be best to break the task into smaller pieces.

We started the conversation with our kids this past Thanksgiving weekend. Thankfully, they welcomed the chance to talk about it. We talked about death, money, estate trustees, and more. At times, it got a little heavy, and so we took breaks. We didn’t finish the conversation. We plan to chat more in the future, but we got started, and that is a critical first step.

Maybe more important than the actual decisions about who does what and who gets what when we die, my wife and I had a chance to talk about our values with our kids. The conversation gave us a chance to talk about what we think is important and why. Neither of us have any interest in dying rich, only to leave our kids a large inheritance. We would much rather help them now, even if it means they get a smaller inheritance, when they are in the early stages of becoming independent and can really use our help. Besides, we also want to make sure that our charitable giving continues. In fact, we would like to increase it as time goes on.

This idea was the backdrop of our first conversation with our kids. Of course, we want to help them in the event something happens to us, but we also want our generosity to continue. Our plans would include leaving assets to our kids in the event of our death, but the more established they become, the less we plan to leave them and the more we plan to give to charity. Thankfully, that idea was not completely foreign to our kids. I guess the times we tried to model living generously had some affect.

Talking about wills is likely not a ‘one and done’ conversation. It can be heavy stuff, so take your time as you wade into the conversation. Just be sure to start the dialogue. The conversation is much too important to avoid.

Contributed by Darren Pries-Klassen

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