Question: How can I talk to my adult children about my financial situation without making any promises about how much money I plan to leave them?
Answer: Recently, I've read a number of articles telling adult children how they can approach this situation with their parents. Good for you for initiating this discussion.
As we age, we still have the same desire to be physically and financially independent, and it's difficult to even consider other alternatives. Our children don't want to be nosy but would like to know if we need help. These are the things they want to know:
Are you going to have enough money?
Where do you want to live?
What are your wishes if you are terminally ill? And do you and your spouse agree?
Where are your important papers (insurance, investments, pension, social security, etc.) filed?
Who are your financial advisors?
You can reassure your children if you take the time to draw up four documents: a) a will, b) durable power of attorney, c) durable power of attorney for health care, and d) a living will.
The will specifically states your wishes. All property owned as joint tenancy will automatically pass to the other owner. If you have property that has never been recorded as joint tenants, a will is the only way to ensure that your wishes are carried out.
If you die without a will, all property owned solely by you will be divided according to the laws in Colorado. The division will include the spouse but may also include the decedent's children and parents. An excellent resource on what happens to your property at death, written by local attorney Celeste Holder Kling, can be found on the Web at www.ext.colostate.edu. You can also get a copy by contacting the Larimer County Cooperative Extension office at 498-6000.
Another tool that will communicate to your children that you are doing everything you can to protect you and them is a durable power of attorney. If something happens to you and you are unable to make decisions, the person named as your power of attorney can sign taxes, sell property and execute financial decisions on your behalf. If you do not have a durable power of attorney, your children may need to have the court appoint a conservator to manage your affairs. This can be a lengthy and costly process.
It is also wise to have a durable power of attorney for health care. This will give the person you choose the power to make health-care decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make these decisions. This person can act in your behalf even if you are not terminally ill.
A living will clearly states that if you are terminally ill, you do not want to be kept alive on artificial life-support systems. This is a very difficult decision for family members to have to make if you are unable to communicate with them and have not left a living will.
Talk to the person or persons you would like to name to act in your behalf with a power of attorney. When all of these documents are completed, let your children know. You don't have to give them the details of your will, but let them know who is named to act with your power of attorney and where all of your important documents are stored. You will be giving your children a gift of love and responsibility.
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