Telling Your Kids What They’re Afraid to Ask


We will discuss the succession after I am wearing the crown….You’ve been thinking about my death quite a bit. ~ Queen Daenerys Targaryen.

In a recent episode of Game of Thrones (spoiler alert) when one of my favorite characters, Daenerys, was about to mount her dragon and fly into a danger zone, she was asked if she had a succession plan in place. Who would run things if a Night Walker struck her from the sky or if she fell off Drogon (her biggest dragon), Tyrion wondered. She balked and said she’ll worry about it later. Jeez, Daenerys. Talk about irresponsible. I mean, you might just be the next queen.

If you’re a parent, I am assuming you have at least done your own basic estate planning work and taken care of your medical directives. Kudos to you. If you’re a parent over age 60, there are a few things that your adult kids should know, but they may fear that it’s inappropriate to ask about inheritance or issues surrounding your death. Having some clarity around a few issues may give your adult kids some much needed peace of mind and could greatly assist with their own planning decisions.

Planning to Help You Later

My mom has always been a good saver, but she never had an advisor review her portfolio and savings strategy to make sure she was on track to meet her goal of retiring completely by age 70. Reviewing her financial picture gave me some clarity over how much I need to set aside every year if I want to enhance her retirement lifestyle or help with her long-term care (LTC) costs if she ends up needing that.

Had my mom waited until she was much older to share everything with me, I think it would have caused a great deal of stress and pressure on my sister and me. Instead, we’ve been able to prioritize where we save our surplus dollars and budget for the possibility of helping her to maintain her quality of life when she’s old. The sooner your kids know if and when you might need a little help later, the better.

You may also want to review your portfolio with your adult child. In Preserving a Parent’s Retirement Nest Egg, I discuss ways in which a parent and adult child can approach this delicate topic. At the very least, a parent should want to make sure that the portfolio is serving its intended purpose. Does this money need to provide for your lifestyle or is it extra money you have earmarked for your heirs? That answer will greatly affect how the money should be invested. Have this conversation now with your adult children or other heirs to determine how this money should be invested and if it’s ok for your child to use his or her own advisor to manage the money on your behalf.  The day may come that you’re unable to handle those duties.

The Impact of an Inheritance

The big dilemma of parent-child conversations is that your kids are hesitant to ask how much they stand to inherit. My Baby Boomer and Gen-X clients rarely let me budget for a future inheritance when I’m building a long-term plan for them. Why? Because they have a low degree of confidence about how much they will receive since they aren’t clear about their parent’s financial plan.

If you tell your kids what the likely bequest to them will be, and if there’s any event that could result in a large deviation from this (such as future health care costs), your adult child can make decisions now with the inheritance in mind. What if he wants to retire a bit sooner and take the leap into a new lower-paying career? Or perhaps he will just sleep better knowing that he has the freedom to stop working a few years earlier.

If you have adult kids, I welcome your thoughts and ideas on this topic. Not having kids myself, I’m sure that I could learn from you. If you are an adult with elderly parents, casually put this article somewhere obvious so they “accidentally” stumble across it.

Happy planning,