Individuals are often reluctant to speak to their heirs about the amount of wealth they will leave behind for a variety of reasons. Jan explains the common barriers and how advisors can help their clients overcome them.
#NowMe Episode 5: Family Legacy Planning Part 1
Ms. Walker: This is #NowMe, a podcast for financial advisors who advise women. Hello. This is Hollis Walker with Jan Blakeley Holman, director of advisor education at Thornburg Investment Management. Welcome back to #NowMe. Hey, Jan. How are you today?
Ms. Holman: Fine, Hollis. How are you? Ms. Walker: I’m good.
Ms. Holman: Good.
Ms. Walker: We’ve been talking about, talking about inheritance. It’s an important topic. Tell us why you think it’s so important.
Ms. Holman: Well, I’d call it inheritance, but I’d also call it preparing heirs. And heirs could include children and other adult heirs because sometimes people’s heirs are their siblings or a loved friend, beloved friend. But the reason I think it’s important now is because of the amount of wealth that’s being transferred. There are estimates that you see all over the place; but Cerulli, which is an industry group, estimates that more than $68 trillion will transfer between generations over the next 25 years. And 25 years may seem like a long time, but in terms of money that’s transferring every year, it’s very significant. So, it’s not like nothing happens and then in 25 years all this money moves. The other thing too, Hollis, is that life expectancy for wealthier individuals is high; so, some people are kind of taking it for granted that they’re going to live for a long time. So, they don’t need to divulge these things to their heirs.
Ms. Walker: I can do that later, in other words.
Ms. Holman: Right. This should be the time when the family wealth creators or the wealth holders are telling their heirs how much money they’re going to receive; and there is a huge reluctance to do so.
Ms. Walker: Why don’t they want to have that conversation?
Ms. Holman: I thought it was really interesting. There was a study of high-net-worth women that Merrill Lynch did and many of the women responded that they would rather talk about their death than what they were going to do with their money after they died. There are few reasons why people are so reluctant to talk about it. One is that many of the wealthy people that I’ve talked to and that I see in conferences that I’m at and that type of thing, don’t wanna talk to their heirs; particularly their children about the about of money they’re going to receive because they think it will be de motivational. They think their heirs will stop doing anything productive and just sit and wait for the money. Second, some people are embarrassed to talk about wealth and how much wealth they’re gonna transfer particularly in an age where there are a lot of people who don’t have homes or wealth or anything like that. So, it’s an embarrassment thing. And finally, societally, we’re encouraged not to talk about money. We talk about maybe how much we bought this purse for; how much lunch cost; but not, oh, by the way, I’m worth $10 million.
Ms. Walker: So, does this also have anything to do with generational differences, because frankly, I don’t have problems talking about money with my family?
Ms. Holman: It does have things to do with generational issues. I was at a conference of wealthy women in Washington, D.C. last fall; and we were discussing wealth and communicating to heirs about wealth and to a tee, the older women who were baby boomers or early Gen X women, said they didn’t want to talk to their children about how much money they’re gonna get. And the millennials who were there said, you need to talk to us about how much money we’re going to get. So, it was, it was really fascinating.
Ms. Walker: So, let me play the devil’s advocate here, my favorite role. If a person, a wealthy individual has done all the legal work. They’ve set up their will. They’ve set up their trust and whatever other things they need to set up. Does it really matter if they choose not to discuss their money with their heirs until they die?
Ms. Holman: Absolutely, because you can imagine how stunningly surprising it would be for a person who thought their parents or their parent was wealthy to all of a sudden find out that they themselves are gonna inherit $15 million. When people, for example, die unexpectedly and they haven’t talked to their family members about where their financial papers are, who their advisor is, their lawyer, all those types of things; it creates huge problems and huge amount of stress and what often happens is that the people who are left behind wind up resenting the person who passed away because everything’s crazy and they weren’t prepared. Another thing is, because people are living longer, many of them are wanting to shape their legacy, especially wealthy individuals. And if they pass away and they haven’t talked to their family members or heirs about what they want their legacy to be, then some of their pet projects aren’t going to be carried on. And what they believed in and what they wanted their family to stand for, may not be something that the world knows about.
Ms. Walker: And it’s another stressor for the children or the heirs to have to try to guess at what was it that mom wanted us to do –
Ms. Holman: Totally.
Ms. Walker: – with this money. Thanks, Jan. That’s all the time we have today. In the next #NowMe, we’ll introduce a way to begin that conversation about inheritance with heirs that will make it easier for the wealth holders to disclose the actual numbers and prepare their children and heirs for their future inheritance. You’ve been listening to #NowMe with me, your host, Hollis Walker, and Jan Blakeley Holman, director of advisor education at Thornburg Investment Management. If you want to suggest a topic for us, email us at email@example.com. If you’d like to hear more episodes of #NowMe, you and find us in Apple, Spotify, Google Podcast or your favorite audio provider or by visiting us at thornberg.com/podcast. Jan can also be found on LinkedIn. If you like us, subscribe, share us on social media and leave us a review. Until next time, thanks for listening.
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