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Families Advised to Have the Inheritance Conversation - Before It's Needed | Werner Law Firm

Families Advised to Have the Inheritance Conversation

Troy Werner and his family

Written by Troy Werner

Troy Werner has been an indispensable asset to The Werner Law Firm since joining in 2009, providing exceptional legal service to its clients.

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POSTED ON: February 28, 2018

As long as life can feel sometimes, many things are left unsaid. We bite our tongue and hold our words and hold back our feelings time and time again, thinking back to those moments in times of regret. But at the time, there is always one or more seemingly good reasons for avoiding a certain […]

As long as life can feel sometimes, many things are left unsaid. We bite our tongue and hold our words and hold back our feelings time and time again, thinking back to those moments in times of regret.

But at the time, there is always one or more seemingly good reasons for avoiding a certain conversation – the biggest and most common feeling always being discomfort. We do not want to feel uncomfortable, so we avoid certain conversations even when they are healthy, and even when they are necessary, because they can be admittedly very difficult to approach.

That is understandable. But some conversations simply must be had no matter how strange or uncomfortable they might be, simply because of how important they are to the family and its general well being. One of these crucial conversations is the matter of inheritance, and its many factors and considerations.

Why People Struggle to Speak About Inheritance

A study was done to determine what kept parents from talking to their kids about inheritance, and vice versa. Several reasons were cited, the most common of which were that the children feel as though financial matters are not usually discussed by the family as a whole, and that parents do not usually feel that it is a pressing matter.

To a lesser degree, parents do not want their children to feel as though they are entitled to an inheritance, nor do they want them to feel as though they should rely on it. An inheritance can, depending on its size, set your children for life. But it is on you and your parenting to make it clear to them that there is more to being prepared in life than having a large sum of money and wealth. The skills and grit needed to acquire and grow that wealth are the true keys to success.

As such, these fears are relatively unfounded, and seem to be built upon a lack of fundamental communication. It is important to maintain active communication between the generations no matter how many years go by, especially between parents and their children.

Importance of Discussing Inheritance With Your Kid(s)

Once you feel your child is old enough to understand what it means, approach them about the idea of inheritance. Explain to them what it is, and why it exists. This does not automatically make children feel entitled. You can gift your children the childhood they need to develop a powerful work ethic and a sense of pride in their own accomplishments, despite them knowing that you have a plan for your eventual passing.

Many parents fear making life too easy for their kids, but often do not have the same qualms about passing on the reigns of the family business. Instead of fearing that your inheritance will demotivate your children, talk to them about that fear, and explain to them why you have developed that fear.

However, for most parents, the pressing issue is that they do not feel as though the time is right to approach the subject of inheritance. However, the truth is - there's really never a "right time," until there is no time at all. Parents with any substantial and concrete plans towards retirement, or any semblance of a potential estate (including real estate and assets), need to begin the inheritance conversation in their household now, or at least consider it, as well as consult a professional regarding the issue and their options for an estate plan.

Regarding the Estate Planning Process

There is no perfect age group for estate planning – young families as well as retirees should take some time to look at the options available to them and update their existing estate plan accordingly. Laws change, taxes change, costs rise and sink, and life itself has a way of completely changing your plans, the estate plan included.

Wills are a classic choice when it comes to simple estate planning, and they are typically ideal for smaller estates. In California, estates under a total value of $150,000 can opt for an expedited probate process, cutting down the time spent waiting on the probate court to clear a will and instead get to the distribution and end of the inheritance process as quickly as possible.

For larger estates, or estates with real property, a trust is better than a will as it allows you to exercise a much more specific kind of inheritance plan, while largely foregoing the probate process.

Beyond these two common tools, a myriad of other options exist, including pet trusts, advance health care directives and other paperwork allowing you to designate beneficiaries and sign over certain powers to trusted individuals in the event of an incapacitation or medical emergency.

From a simple will and the probate process, to a complex set of estate planning tools, there is no easy way to tell what approach is best for you and your family. Instead, consider hiring a professional and inquiring with them.

Seeking Legal Counsel for Guidance & Questions

Estate planning is, if nothing else, an incredibly delicate matter engulfed within endless complexities and countless opportunities for optimization. Ensuring that your property is concisely and simply passed on as inheritance to your loved ones should, in theory, be simple.

But the reality is that people face all kinds of circumstances, leading to numerous restrictions around inheritance, and a long list of optional and obscure legal tools meant to help create a very specific estate plan catered around you and your needs.

The last thing anyone wants after a death in the family is to have their mourning process interrupted with countless red tape. But with a little preparation, and some foresight, you can craft an efficient estate plan and see to it that your properties and assets are properly distributed after your eventual passing, without causing too much stress for the family.

As inconvenient as it may be, be sure to take the time to sit down with your loved ones and consider what might happen after you die. Not only will everyone be able to air their thoughts and discuss what they think about your plans, but you will be able to essentially prevent a lot of potential grief down the line by preparing for what is otherwise a terrible interruption in a family’s natural process of grief.

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