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Family Reunions: Having Tough Talks About Family Finances

Summer is a time for family reunions. Of course, we all enjoy getting together to share good times and make new memories. But because a reunion is also one of the few times many family members see each other face to face, it can also be a good opportunity to have serious discussions.

One of these table topics should be the financial wellbeing of you and your family, especially your children and grandchildren. Last year, the Wall Street Journal’s Ron Winslow reported on Americans living longer, making issues like long-term disability and retirement planning more complicated.

So before you light the grill, here are three issues to discuss with the younger members of your family to make financial planning more effective.

Record keeping: Keep all your financial records in a safe place, and let select family members know where they are. Bank and brokerage account information? Individual stocks and bonds? Safe deposit boxes? Property deeds? Also, designate a trusted family member to know your online banking passwords and your Social Security number…just in case. While this can be a delicate conversation, this is also basic knowledge that smart families share. The ReadyForZero blog provides some excellent record-keeping tips.

Estate planning: Estate planning is not just for wealthy families. If you don’t have a will, seek legal advice, talk to you family and create one. If you do have a will, make sure your loved ones know what it entails. With the assistance of an estate lawyer, choose an executor and beneficiaries. Often, a family member may not be your best choice as executor; consider a lawyer or other independent third party. Keep in mind that after you write a will, it should be reviewed in the event of any changes in your family – relocation, new grandchildren, an increase or decrease in the value of your net worth.

Healthcare: It’s important that select family members know all the details of your Medicare and private health insurance policies. Who are your physicians, and what prescriptions are you on? While it can be very difficult to talk about your end years, it’s also vital that family members know your wishes if you become debilitated or pass away. CNN’s Jacque Wilson points to a study showing only 29% of people have ever had a serious conversation about loved ones’ last aspirations. Also: It’s not sufficient to just talk about your preferences: they should be properly recorded via documents like living wills, healthcare proxies, advance directives and powers of attorney.