Communicating with Your Siblings About Money and Aging Parents
Many adult children are called upon to help out their aging parents as life changes, but only 65% of siblings say they talk about money with each other, according to research by Ameriprise Financial. While only 15% of siblings have money disputes, when siblings fight over finances, it’s usually about their parents’ situation. Financial conversations between siblings become inevitable, as siblings manage their parents’ financial affairs, including estate planning, health care, retirement income, and wills.
If you share responsibilities with your siblings, it’s important to make sure your family is on the same page. Here are some tips to help you and your siblings have civil conversations about money-related family matters.
Put aside your differences. When your parents need help, don’t waste your time rehashing old family feuds. Keep yourself in check if you are tempted to fall into old patterns of behavior that can alienate adult siblings. You may not be able to control the behavior of your siblings, but you can control your own actions.
Determine key priorities. You’ll accomplish more – and potentially less – when everyone is committed to common goals. Evaluate the financial matters that you and your siblings will need to manage together. If your parents’ safety is a major concern, agree on the support and services they need to stay safe in the family home. If it’s time for your parents to move to an assisted living facility, put your energy into finding a solution.
Schedule time to talk. Schedule regular visits with your siblings to discuss pressing matters related to your parents’ care, including managing finances. Frequent conversations can help reduce anxiety and improve collaboration. Ongoing dialogue will help prevent misunderstandings from turning into full-fledged battles and help keep your parents’ best interests in mind.
Divide and conquer. It is important to define responsibilities, knowing that each brother or sister may be able to contribute different amounts of time, money and expertise. Be upfront about what you can reasonably handle and open to taking on more tasks if you have the capacity. Keep in mind that responsibilities may change over time as circumstances change for you and your siblings.
Be open to advice. Bringing outside sources into your surroundings can help guide you impartially as you enter this new phase of life. Your parents’ tax preparer, financial planner, and other trusted advisors may be able to help you understand their current financial situation. Once you’re ready to plan the next steps for your family, consider working with just one financial advisor. This approach allows the counselor to help you create a comprehensive plan that addresses everyone’s needs and concerns.
Conversations about money can be emotional and difficult to initiate, but keep in mind that there are benefits to having open communication. Families who are ready to discuss money-related topics are often more confident in their ability to handle financial challenges and achieve their goals.