12/5/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

A father wonders how much of his financial affairs he should share with his grown children. See what advice columnist Ask Amy advises in this installment of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

Neither my wife nor I came from money. But thanks to a lot of hard work, good choices – and luck – our children will come into money.

Both of our kids are grown, married to terrific partners, and on good career paths. My wife and I are in our late 60s and in good health and we’re thinking about giving them a full picture of the extent of the potential estate and our financial affairs when we’re all together at the holidays.

Is there any reason not to do that? We trust both them and their spouses completely.

If so, how much information should we give? Should we give them specific dollar amounts for each account? Provide all account numbers? Should we provide copies of our wills?

There’s no mystery to our wills. My wife and I each leave our estate to the other upon either of our deaths, and the remainder equally to each child once the surviving spouse dies. The amount is quite substantial now and likely to be more as time goes on.

I could also see updating our financial affairs information every year just so they know where things stand.

I don’t see any reason to have any mystery. I’d like to make it simple for them to sort things out when the time comes. Plus, it would help in their own planning.

grandfather, father, and granddaughter playing chess. Image by Korn Vitthayanukarun. For article on financial affairs and families.

What do you think?

Doting Dad

Dear Doting:

You’ve asked my opinion, and my opinion is that you should keep your specific financial affairs private until you have the qualified counsel of your financial planner and choose an executor (possibly one or both of your children, or perhaps a younger friend, niece or nephew).

I do think it is important for you to let your children know that you and your wife are doing well financially, that your wills are drawn up, and that they will inherit equally. I don’t think it’s necessary for them to see your wills.

Again – in my opinion – you should consider ways to disperse some of your estate before you die, perhaps through purchasing or helping them to purchase homes, and establishing college funds for their children.

If you do decide to disclose the particulars of your financial affairs, do not share your bank and investment account numbers with them. These should be kept private.

Let your children and executor know where your documents are located (keep these updated with all passwords included) and make sure they can contact your lawyer and investment adviser.

Medical directives and power-of-attorney decisions are also important components of this discussion.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from parents’ financial affairs to grandparenting to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

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