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 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 the 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 financial planning.
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, 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.
Dear Amy: As I drove around my area this Election Day, I had a few thoughts.
How about if we all took down every single sign and personal political flag, no matter the outcome of elections?
If we all did not know how others voted, I think we’d all get along better, and we wouldn’t feel bad about people every time we saw the hat he/she wore, the flag hanging on their garage, or the huge sign on their truck.
I used to be friendly to everyone I’d meet along a sidewalk or coming out of a store, and now I avoid those people who advertise views which are different from mine.
Political divisiveness is ruining everything. Let’s go back to only advertising our politics for a few weeks before each election — that is more than enough!
— Tired of Knowing
Dear Tired: If you believe that political divisiveness is ruining positive human interactions, then you should rethink your own behavior. You used to be friendly toward everyone, and now if you know or suspect they’ve voted differently than you, you avoid them.
I’m suggesting that you have your own part to play (we all do) in terms of maintaining the peaceful, pluralistic society citizens want to enjoy.
Casting your vote, advocating for your favorite candidates or causes, and greeting others with an attitude of openness and curiosity — or at least tolerance — are all ways you can stake your own claim.
These behaviors are ultimately more powerful and long-lasting than a yard sign.
Dear Amy: I respected your thoughtful response to “Sad Grandma,” who was concerned that her son-in-law was “mean” and belittling to her grandchildren.
I think you should have advised her to call Child Protective Services (CPS). Verbal abuse is abuse.
Dear Concerned: “Sad Grandma’s” primary question was whether she should advise the family to move in with her.
I agree that whenever an adult suspects a child is being abused, they should contact CPS. This is another choice this grandmother will have to make.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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