Lisa Featherngill, CPA/PFS
Managing Director – Wealth Planning, Abbot Downing
When I started out as a CPA planner 30-plus years ago, I used to say that the estate plan wasn’t final until we have checked the beneficiary designation and checked the title of assets to make sure they were consistent with the plan. Now I say the estate plan isn’t complete until it’s been communicated. So I have seen this real shift in the last 10 years towards communication. And part of the reason of that is that there are easily five generational cohorts that could be at the Thanksgiving table and this is probably the first time ever because we have got people living so long. And there are — there is a need for information, and the younger generations frankly demand more information and transparency.
We like to say that most children know about the assets in the family or have a good idea about the assets in the family by the time they are 15, because they can go on the internet and find out so much information.
So being open about that financial information becomes really important. So we have client structure family meetings, and sometimes it’s full disclosure about the financial structure, the dollars, how assets are going to pass, all those types of things.
I think it’s really critical to have these meetings where families talk about the finances and talk about the plans because I have worked with too many clients who didn’t have that benefit. And the parents die and they wonder “Why have mom and dad leave the assets to me in this way? Why are they leaving to me this way versus my brother in a different way?” And it’s my goal that there is never a “why” before it’s too late or after it’s too late to answer it.
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