Parents’ finances can lead to painful rifts among their children. Richard Eisenberg, money editor for NextAvenue, identifies three issues that cause the most conflict among siblings:
- How an inheritance is divided. Apparently, Boomers are more likely to argue about this than GenerationXs or Millennials.
- Whether one sibling supports parents more than the other siblings.
- Whether parents are fair in their financial support of their children.
Ironically, conflict among their children is usually the last thing that parents want. Many parents want to leave an inheritance, and may inadvertently create unrealistic expectations of what each child will receive
At the heart of the conflict is often the different approaches that each of the children has to financial matters (this despite being raised with similar values), and their perceived asset level compared to their siblings. “It’s how the siblings’ own lives have turned out financially that often leads to their money disagreements,” says Eisenberg.
Research cited by Eisenberg indicates that Boomers are also less likely to have financial discussions with their siblings: 42% avoid these conversations versus 27% of Millennials and 35% of GenerationXs.
So, here are some recommendations for avoiding conflict:
- Set aside time as siblings to talk about money and set past disagreements aside. Make sure everyone gets a voice. Set a date to do this.
- If you all find it too difficult to come to an agreement, get a financial planner involved. She will have the necessary expertise and an objective perspective, and can mediate and help prompt discussion on essential issues.
- Try not to argue about who is doing the most for your parents. This may happen as a result of geographic proximity or varying time available. Rather, find ways in which the sibling with less responsibility can get more involved. An important part of the conversation is ensuring that non-financial tasks for parents don’t fall disproportionately on the sibling who is local. “Assign roles based on each person’s unique circumstances,” Eisenberg urges.
- .Prevent future grudges regarding inheritance by having a conversation with your parents and siblings about your mother’s and father’s hopes and plans regarding who will get what … and when and why. Parents not comfortable with such a discussion? Perhaps they can write their wishes (and reasons for them) in a Letter of Wishes or a similar document.
A last note on avoiding family strife
“A final tip for fending off family strife,” says Eisenberg, is to bear the following in mind: “Siblings are often the longest relationships people have in their lives. You know your sibling longer than anyone else. It’s really important to come together and work together to care for, and support, your aging parents.”