By Hayden Burrus, Type Z Finance
Special to The Pineapple
For me, that’s an easy question. I think you should be completely open and share what’s in your will with everyone mentioned in the will and everyone who thinks they are mentioned in the will but not those that you cut out of the will. Indeed, more than one person should have the contact information for the lawyer that has the official copy of your will. Everyone included in your will should know who the executor is and why that person was chosen. They also should know the custodian of your kids and why that person was chosen. Everyone mentioned in the will should know the approximate financial amount anticipated that they’ll receive. In addition, everyone in your will should know if your life expectancy changes. If you decide to change something in the will, everyone affected and the executor should know and why. If you have any specific last wishes, you should amend your will and discuss these wishes with everyone concerned. The executor should know details of your finances, such as contact information for financial institutions, account numbers and approximate account values. Also, the executor should have a “springing power of attorney,” which activates upon your incapacity rather than your death. In short, nothing in your will should be a surprise. The day your will is read is your last communication to your loved ones. That’s an awful day for a surprise or a miscommunication that will last into eternity. Sure, the above approach may feel uncomfortable to you – “Johnny, I am leaving you less money because I see that you have a good job and don’t need financial help as much as your sister, Mary,” is not a fun thing to say. But it’s better than Johnny finding out after you die and thinking you left him less because you love Mary more. When should you tell your loved ones? Right after you sign the will. Older children should know the details, too, to the extent that they are old enough to understand. I don’t agree with the counterarguments that some people offer along the lines of: “It’s my money and nobody should count on getting it,” or “I don’t want my money to strip my loved ones of the motivation to earn on their own.” The fact is, it’s your money until you die. Then it’s someone else’s. An inheritance of significant size is something that should be planned for. An inheritee can save on taxes if they have properly managed money to take advantage of the future windfall. Talking about inheritance is exactly how you prevent motivation loss. If your kids know you have wealth but don’t have your wisdom on how to manage money, and don’t know if or when they will get it, guess what? The inheritance will be gone in six months. Finally, if you are on the other side of the will, and think that you may be asked to settle the financial affairs of someone else, you should ask. If you are indeed the executor, you should require access to all the information discussed above. If you are denied this information, you should ask for someone else to be named executor in your place because you could not be an effective executor without discussing your loved one’s wishes ahead of time. Hayden Burrus is the principal of Forward Financial Planners LLC, a fee only financial advisory firm and Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). He also manages www.TypeZFinance.com, a personal finance blog. You can reach him at (561) 279-2323.