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How to communicate with your siblings about money and aging parents

Many adult children are asked to help their aging parents as life changes set in, yet only 65 percent of siblings report talking about money with each other, according to research from Ameriprise Financial. While only 15 percent of siblings conflict over money, when siblings argue about finances, it is usually about their parents’ situation. Financial conversations between siblings become inevitable as brothers and sisters manage their parents’ money affairs, including estate planning, health care, retirement income, and wills.

In the event that you have shared responsibilities with your siblings in the future, it is important to make sure your family is on the same page. Here are some tips to help you and your siblings have cordial conversations about money-related family matters.

Put aside your differences. When your parents need help, don’t waste time re-discussing old family disputes. Stay in control if you are tempted to slip into old behavior patterns that may alienate your older siblings. You may not be able to control how your siblings behave, but you can control your own actions.

Determine key priorities. You’ll accomplish more, and potentially train less, when everyone is committed to common goals. Evaluate the financial affairs that you and your siblings will have to handle together. If the safety of your parents is a primary concern, agree on the supports and services they need to stay safe in the family home. If it’s time for your parents to move into an assisted living facility, put your energy into finding a solution.

Schedule time to talk. Schedule regular visits with your siblings to discuss pressing issues related to parenting, including how finances are managed. Frequent conversations can help decrease anxiety and improve collaboration. Ongoing dialogue will help prevent misunderstandings from turning into full-blown battles and will help keep your parents’ best interests at the forefront.

Divide and conquer. It is important to establish responsibilities, with the understanding that each brother can contribute different amounts of time, money, and experience. Be frank about what you can reasonably handle and open to taking on more tasks if you have the ability. Keep in mind that responsibilities may change over time, as circumstances change for you and your siblings.

Be open to advice. Bringing outside sources into your inner circle can help you provide unbiased guidance as you enter this new phase of life. Your parent’s tax preparer, financial planner, and other trusted advisers could provide an important bridge to understanding your current financial situation. Once you are ready to plan the next steps for your family, consider working with a single financial advisor. This approach allows the counselor to help you create a comprehensive plan that addresses everyone’s needs and concerns.

Conversations about money can be emotional and difficult to start, but keep in mind that there are benefits to having open communication. Families who are willing to tackle money-related issues tend to be more confident in their ability to handle financial challenges and work toward their goals.

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