Talking with Kids About Values

Estate planning isn’t a very easy or fun topic to discuss, particularly with your children. It is a talk many of us simply shove aside until it is too late. Communication about your values and wishes for your estate is essential to ensuring that hurt feelings are minimized and surprises eliminated.

I wrote an article for the NAPFA Planning Perspectives newsletter recently and gave four suggestions for making this conversation a little less awkward.

Have you expressed your values and wishes for your estate to your children recently or ever?  Now may be a good time to consider bringing up the topic.  In most cases, children appreciate knowing their parents’ wishes before you pass. This eliminates kids having to make up the story for you after you pass.

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


2 Responses to Talking with Kids About Values

  1. Richard Trachtman, Ph.D. May 11, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    Good advice Rick. Talkling about money within families is difficult. In some cases parents may want to talk with a financial therapist to help them sort ot their thoughts about what they want to do, how they want to communicate and how. Later this month the National Association of Social Workers Press will be publishing a new book – Money And Psychotherapy: A Guide For Mental Health Professionals. This will be a valuable resource for financial therapists and, although it is not pitched to them, also for financial advsiors. Anyone who wants to be notified when this book is released can send an email address with thier request to Here is just a brief excerptto let you know what this book is like:

    Therapists may also help with the broader area of communication about family finances and status, which are important considerations in child rearing. Children often have questions about how much money their parents earn or have. But some parents are reluctant to discuss money even with each other. The children’s questions have to do with underlying concerns about security in the present, status in society or expectations for the future and they present an opportunity for social-emotional education and growth. Failure to address some of these questions may leave the child unprepared to deal adequately with money issues in adulthood.
    When there is a likelihood of a significant inheritance it is a disservice to the child not to be educated about what he may expect in the future. Financial education in this case (as is equally true in all cases) has not only to do with how to manage money but also about the values the parents wish to instill in their children, which will inform their handling of money. It is a disservice to hide from a child the fact that he will some day receive a significant inheritance. Sudden wealth – or the sudden realization that one is wealthy can lead to significant problems. Similarly, wealthy parents who do not plan to leave their money to their children should explain the reasons that such decisions are being made and the values underlying such decisions – and should give the children the opportunity to express their own points of view and come to terms with their parents’ plans.
    The need for communication applies whether money will be distributed either equally or unequally between siblings. Do the parents plan to give a greater inheritance to a child who worked in the family business? How will his siblings feel about that? If , on the other hand, the value of the business is to be distributed equally, how is the child who contributed more time and effort to creating its success to understand his parent’s choice? Do the parents feel they should provide greater support to a child who suffers a disability; or perhaps to a child who has chosen to go into the arts and expects to earn less than siblings who are businessmen? Whatever the parents’ reasons, the children will be better able to deal with the financial and emotional realities of such decisions if they are prepared. Failure to prepare them may result in emotional or adaptational problems and conflicts between siblings. But it is often difficult for parents to know how to talk with their children about such matters and a therapist can help them figure out how to do so in an appropriate way.


  1. Wealth 360 Network for Values-Driven Estate Planners - October 17, 2012

    […] Talking with Kids About Values | Financial Awakenings […]