My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant and a partner with a National Accounting Firm in Toronto. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are written solely in my personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which I am affiliated. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humor/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Taboo Of Money - I Will Not Talk About It -Part 1

As discussed in my blog post last week, I am going to post small excerpts of a book I was writing on money taboos which I have abandoned. Today and next week, I write on the taboo of discussing your will with your children, either individually or in a family meeting, while you are alive.

The Taboo


One of the biggest money taboos people have is discussing their will openly with family members.

People hate talking about their own death. People hate talking about their own money. People hate conflict within their families. Combine all of these hang-ups and a perfect storm of neurosis results, creating a virtual tsunami of taboos involving openly discussing one's wealth, one's death and disclosing one's personal opinion about family members. Many people view the thought of this discussion with horror, but my advice is simply - "get over it and do it!"

Reasons for the Taboo


In a 2016 Google Consumer Survey conducted by Legalwills.ca, the survey found 62% of Canadians do not have wills. The survey also noted that 12% of Canadians have an outdated Will (most never updated their Wills once they married and/or had children), which means that 74% of Canadians do not have an up-to-date Last Will and Testament.

I suppose the most common, although rarely admitted, reason for this is, that people are in denial that their lives will eventually end and that their lives will probably end at a time that they cannot control. Understandable, but foolish. None of us get out of this world alive, so get a move on and arrange your affairs so that all of the money, jewelry, collectibles and personal items you have worked for will ultimately be distributed in the most beneficial and tax-efficient way possible.

Once someone has faced up to the necessity of drafting the will, why then the fear of discussing its contents with family members - those who are actually going to benefit from the will? I have heard both rational and irrational reasons for avoiding the discussion. Here's a sampling of some reasons/excuses I have heard over the years for people not discussing their wills/estate planning with their beneficiaries:
  1. It is none of their business.
  2. My parents did not discuss their will with me, so why should I discuss it with my children.
  3. It is bad luck.
  4. If my children know what is in my will, they will be hovering over me like the Angel of death waiting for me to kick the bucket.
  5. Discussing our intentions will just cause tensions amongst my children.
  6. My will does not split my wealth equally among my children.
  7. My children are not equally responsible and I have a trust for one child; I don’t want them upset at me while I am alive that I don’t trust their judgement.
  8. I am leaving a substantial sum to charity, my kids will “freak” when they find out.
  9. I have no idea how long I will live, my assets may be depleted by the time I pass away and the kids will be expecting certain assets that may not be in existence.
  10. I have not drafted a will (see above).

Consequences of adhering to the Taboo


If you do not discuss your will with your children while alive, the following are possible
consequences:
  1. Perceived or actual inequalities in your will that can be explained rationally while you are alive will never be explained. 
  2. You may create unintended conflict amongst your children.
  3. You may not have an accurate understanding of which assets your children truly want.
  4. Income taxes may not be minimized.
  5. Estate litigation may result.

There is no doubt that money brings out the worst in some people and a full disclosure of your family assets and planned distribution may cause problems in your relationship with your children and in their relationships with each other. But it is my belief that it is better to know the problems, confront the problems and solve the problems before you die and this can only be done by a full and frank discussion with your beneficiaries.

Next week I will discuss the benefits of having a family meeting to discuss your will and estate planning.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

4 comments:

  1. Interesting reasons for the procrastination / taboos!

    Most of it seems themed around children. It makes me wonder what kind of open and honest relationship such parents have with their kids, as in, not very good ones.

    Thanks for sharing, interesting stuff! Hope the golf game is good.

    Mark

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    1. Hi Mark

      Thx. Hope all is well, golf game would be better if we had a nice day of weather in Toronto in May :( -- our weather has been terrible

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  2. A terrific article as usual Mark. I think a lot of aging parents feel like the more secrets they keep about their estate plan, somehow the more engaged all of their family will be in overseeing their late-in-life care. They think, the more secrets more care. In truth, the most engaged children are the one who know exactly what their parents want in the way of care. Transparency around estate plans includes transparency around living wills. The most extraordinary advisors are holding family meetings to begin these conversations ( that's what it means to add value to client relationships). The smartest advisors are meeting the succeeding generation and facilitating smooth wealth transfers. In the process of doing so, they are reversing the trend that 66% of inherited wealth moves to a new advisors. I'm about to launch a new tool for advisors to help start these important family conversations about inheritances... it's called the Willing Wisdom Index.

    I hope you keep on writing and sharing your insights on this under researched and reported subject. With 137 million American and Canadian adults without a will -- we are heading for family strife and chaos on an unprecedented scale. It doesn't have to be this way -- in fact what an amazing time to be an advisor and help families in such a profound way.

    Tom Deans

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    1. Tom, thx for your kind comments. Interesting stat that 66% move to new advisors, does not surprise me, look forward to learning about your new tool

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