You might work diligently at building a financial roadmap for your retirement years and a comprehensive estate plan. But you can’t just create these strategies – you also have to communicate them. Specifically, you need to inform your spouse and your grown children what you have in mind for the future – because the more they know, the fewer the surprises that await them down the road.
Let’s start with your spouse. Ideally, of course, you and your spouse should have already communicated about your respective ideas for retirement and have come to an agreement on the big issues, such as when you both plan to retire, where you’ll live during retirement, and what you want to do as retirees (volunteer, travel, work part time and so on).
But what you both might have let slip through the cracks are the important specifics related to financing your retirement. You’ll need to answer several questions, including these:
- When will you each start taking Social Security?
- Are there strategies for maximizing both of your Social Security payments?
- When will you need to start tapping into your respective retirement accounts, such as your IRA and 401(k)? And, once you do start withdrawing from these accounts, how much should you take out each year?
You may want to work with a financial professional to address these issues, but however you proceed, you and your spouse need to be “on the same page” regarding the key financial components of your retirement.
Now, consider your grown children. You need to clearly communicate your estate plans to them, not only for the sake of openness and honesty, but also because they may well play active roles within those plans. So when talking to your children, make sure you cover these areas:
- Durable power of attorney – You may well decide to give one of your grown children the durable power of attorney to pay bills and make financial choices on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
- Estate executor – An executor is the person or entity you name in your will to carry out your wishes. An executor has a variety of responsibilities, so you’ll want to choose someone who is honest and capable of dealing with legal and financial matters. Again, you could ask a grown child to serve as your executor, but, to avoid potential conflict of interests among your children, you might want to go outside the family. Talk with an attorney about how best to name your executor.
- Status of will and living trust – Assuming you have already drawn up a will, share it with your grown children. The same is true with a living trust, a popular estate-planning tool that may allow your survivors to avoid going through the time-consuming, public and expensive process of probate. A will and a living trust will obviously contain a great deal of information your children should know about – so take the time to explain your thinking when you created these documents.
You want to enjoy a comfortable retirement, and you want to leave a meaningful legacy through your estate plans. To help accomplish both these goals, you need to include your loved ones in your arrangements – so open those lines of communication.