3 ways to talk to your children about inheritance

You’ve worked hard to build a nest egg to pass on to your children. But do they know that? And do they know what you hope they’ll do with it?

If not, you’re not alone. Consider this: 40% of parents with at least $1 million in investable assets haven’t talked about their estate plans with their kids.*

Conversations about inheritance and your legacy can be stressful and emotional. But they can also give you and your family peace of mind.

Not sure how to approach your kids? Use these conversation starters to begin the discussion and help avoid family inheritance issues.

Open with an anecdote

Have you recently read an article or talked to a friend about inheritance? You can use these real-life experiences to prompt a conversation. Breaking the ice casually can ease some of the tension that comes with talking about inheritance.

Conversation starter No. 1: “I just [had a conversation/read an article] about estate planning, which reminds me that I wanted to talk to you about our situation …”

Lead with a question

Making a declarative statement could come off as indifferent to your children’s feelings, hopes and wishes, and shut down the discussion before it begins. Instead, be firm but polite, and lead with a question that shows you’re open to a two-way dialogue. If you have a plan for how they should spend their inheritance, consider gifting the money now and guiding them accordingly.

Rather than, “I’m giving you this amount, and you’re going to do X with it,” try the following:

Conversation starter No. 2: “I’ve set aside X amount for you when I’m gone. How would you feel about that?”

Explain what your estate plan means to you

Help your kids work through the discomfort of the conversation by sharing why estate planning matters to you. You can also acknowledge that it’s awkward — but necessary — to discuss it:

Conversation starter No. 3: “I know this isn’t easy to talk about, but I want to go over the inheritance you’ll receive when I’m gone. It’s important to me that you’re prepared when the time comes.”

*Source: “Talking to children about inheritance,” Central Trust Company, March 22, 2021.