It’s a fact – families do not want conflict. Therefore, people don’t talk about it. However, not talking about it does not eliminate it.
One such difficult conversation to have is a parent talking to their adult children about money – about inheritance – about what the parent would wish in terms of long term care and their wishes for how their children should carry out their legacy.
Parents with a disabled child often want to have conversations with the non-disabled child, expressing the parents’ wishes for that disabled child after they are gone. The problem is, most parents do not know how to even begin these conversations……so, they simply do not have them….then they die. This compounds the grief by the surviving family members.
I give the following advice to my clients:
- Write a Letter of Wishes (“LOW”) to your family, for discussion before you die or become incapacitated;
- Give away money before you die. Do good now while you can see what that child has done with the money you have given them. This will also give you a good indication as to how they will protect your legacy when you are gone
Here is an example:
In an attempt to simplify matter for you, I have written this letter to provide you with information that will be necessary for you when the time arises:
Some of the people you will need to contact are listed below (list your Advisors – Attorney, Accountant, Insurance Advisor, Pension, Mortgage Company, Employer, Pastor, etc.):
Here is a list of all stocks, bonds, and other investments, including property. I have listed a contact person and telephone number for each item, as well as the location of any documents:
Money is owed to me by:
Here is a list of my debts, including a contact name and phone number of each, as well as the location of any related documents:
I have the following life insurance policies:
Any of these policies can be found at:
I have the following health insurance policies:
I have executed each of the following documents and you can find them where noted (Will, Medical Directive, Medical Power of Attorney, Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, Declaration of Guardian, etc.):
In the event of my incapacity, I want to be kept home as long as possible, taking into account the cost.
I have a safety deposit box. It can be found at and the key can be found:
I may receive an inheritance from:
Upon my death, my heirs will receive a distribution of benefits from a trust. The trust instrument was created by:
I want my family to carry out my legacy in the following manner:
I am also writing this letter as a letter of guidance and of my preferences for my disabled daughter, Ann B. Cash. I intend it to be helpful in handling matters which may arise when I die or if I become incapacitated and for it to be followed as much as possible. I have tried to think of what all of you would need to know and what I would like to do to help you if I were there. So, I have put together a list of things that Ann likes to do and some of my wishes for her:
- Ann has pizza on Fridays. She is accustomed to this and I would want the person serving as her Guardian to continue this.
- I want Ann to be able to experience as much enjoyment in life as possible. I want her to stay in a clean, safe and stress-free (as much as possible) environment.
- Ann loves makeup and loves to dress up and look pretty. I have left enough funds for Ann to purchase her favorite lip gloss from the drug store each month. Please see that what I leave for Ann is used to provide for her and for her enjoyment in life generally.
- I would like for Ann to be able to visit her friends and relatives at least once monthly and I wish that Ann is able to live as close to normal life as possible.
- Ann loves going to the movies and playing pool. I want her to continue to be able to enjoy these things.
- I want Ann to continue to have excellent medical and dental care. She needs to have checkups every six months and her doctor and dentist information is as follows:
- Ann loves to go to church. Please make sure that she attends church every Sunday.”
I have signed this letter of wishes this ____ day of 2021. This document is not intended to replace my will or other estate planning documents signed by me. However, it is my express desire that each family member, Executor, Trustee and Guardian will use this letter of wishes and the other documents signed by me in making any discretionary decisions for me and my family.”
You should sign and date your letter and discuss it with your family. Make sure at least two persons have copies of your letter. These are difficult conversations to have, but this is one of the best gifts you can give to your family.