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Preparing For an Awkward Conversation: How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Will and Inheritance

By Christina2 - June 16, 2014

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Having a will is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family, as it removes any doubt after death and makes the grieving process easier. Your family will have a difficult enough time coping with the fact that you're gone once you do pass on, and adding to that with confusing or misinterpreted directives can tear families apart. However, just having that conversation can be enough to freeze you with fear and awkwardness. After all, how are you supposed to talk to your children about the days when you won't be around? It doesn't have to be as difficult as you think, and we're here to point out some of the best ways you can go about it.

Start Slowly and Gradually

There are some topics you can dive into right away and cover all the bases immediately, like where to go for dinner, what to do for a birthday, or how to rearrange furniture in the living room. Your will and inheritance, though, don't quite fall under that category. But just because they don't doesn't mean you should put it off either, as the sooner you start, the easier it'll be. And remember, as much as you don't want to have the conversation, your children will probably want to even less.

Keeping this in mind, broach the topic by asking them when a good time to talk about it is, as well as judging how mature and ready each of your children are. It's all about finding the right balance and time, and putting aside any fear you have of the topic. Everyone's time on earth will eventually come to an end, and there's just no getting around it.

Consider How Ready Your Kids are for an Inheritance

A common worry about leaving an inheritance for your children is that it'll breed complacency and remove ambition in them, as a pile of money can be an attractive option over having to work for your own. One way of circumventing this is to split up your inheritance into incentive trusts, such as specifying a yearly amount based on your child's salary. In theory, this will motivate them to work harder to access more money, as opposed to sitting back and having an income come to them anyway.

Gauge Your Kids on Individual Bases

Think back to when your children were really young, and how you raised each one a little differently. They all had different personalities and learning styles, and what worked for one might have been totally wrong for the other. They may be grown up now, but the same approach should still be used. One child may want only the bare bones of information, while another is willing to go into all the details. Don't ignore your kids' personalities when talking to them about this sensitive subject.

Use a Balanced Approach

Although each child should be treated differently because they are different, try to keep as much balance in there as possible. For example, if you have a nice jewelry collection, think about how you're going to divide it up fairly. Try asking your children what their favorite pieces are and why, such as if your engagement ring has special sentimental value to one of them.

Even if what you'll be leaving for them isn't of great monetary value, such as a collection of art made by a favorite, yet not particularly well known, painter, it's still important to talk to your kids and see which pieces have the most meaning for them. It gives both you and them a chance to come to a shared agreement beforehand, leaving a lot less room for surprises after the fact.

Remember to Tackle Things Head On

There are time and places in life where euphemisms are fine, and there are times when you should deal with a topic head-on and with clear language. Discussing your will and inheritance definitely falls into the latter category, and you don't want to beat around the bush at all. It may be awkward and uncomfortable to bring it up, but remember that the end goal is clarity: clarity about the details, clarity about the divisions, and clarity about how everyone should proceed. It may not go perfectly and you'll probably hit bumps in the road, but you'll be a lot better off for just ploughing through it.