Mother and two daughters looking at tablet on a couch.

Foster financial literacy and family values

The two go hand in hand when preparing your heirs. 

Timing discussions around money while clearly communicating your financial values with heirs can be tricky.

You may already be asking yourself: How will I help them understand this is more about passing on a legacy than money? What financial knowledge and decision-making skills do my heirs currently have? Will my family understand the importance of charitable giving as much as I do?

We’ve compiled some insights below to help you build a solid foundation for your values and principles long before any money changes hands.

Open lines of communication

Talking about inheritance may be uncomfortable for some families for a variety of reasons. Facing the prospect of losing a loved one can be very overwhelming. Disparities in bequests to your children can also be a sensitive issue to discuss.

But while these might be difficult conversations to have, the sensitivity of these topics emphasizes the importance of addressing them. Once you’ve built a foundation for honest, open financial conversations, your heirs will gradually become more comfortable addressing these topics in time.

If possible, bring all your heirs together, or at least those inheriting the majority of your estate, to help ensure everyone is aligned and understands your intentions.

You may not go into all the specifics during these group conversations, but it’s valuable to set expectations and open lines of communication among your heirs too. Transparent dialogue may mitigate the risk of any strife between them later.

Group sessions are important, but it’s recommended you also take the time to sit down with each heir individually to discuss their gift and role in the estate process. After all, each of your heirs has their own needs, aspirations and special relationship with you.

At some point – and it doesn’t have to be the first or second meeting – consider introducing your family members to your advisor so they can start to build a relationship and feel comfortable asking questions as they arise. Your advisor can provide their office as a neutral location to host the meetings and serve as an impartial mediator among you if needed.

Involvement and guidance

It’s only natural to want to prioritize the well-being and financial preparedness of your loved ones, especially to make sure they’re well-equipped to manage their inheritance as well as make the most of it.

When the time is right to initiate these discussions, it’s crucial to ensure the topics you plan to bring up are right for the maturity level and financial literacy of your heirs. The overarching goal is to gradually instill and enhance their financial literacy, and that process should happen well in advance of the inheritance itself.

For example, young ones in elementary or middle school can often grasp important lessons about tradeoffs. You can point out that skipping out on buying a treat every day after school might mean getting that Lego set or video game at the end of the month. Incorporating everyday money management skills, like spending, saving and sharing, helps build a strong foundation that makes your heirs good stewards of your wealth later in life.

Once your loved ones become adults, don’t be shy about sharing more details about the story of your wealth. As young adults, they’re perhaps pursuing their own investment opportunities and planning for their future. They may be putting money into their first job’s 401(k) or learning how a health savings account works, so will already have some knowledge to draw from.

Discussing the hard work and smart decisions you’ve made to earn your wealth with your heirs is an engaging approach that can foster credibility and respect in the long run. Inspiring them to understand how you’ve nurtured and grown your nest egg through the years may be the catalyst for your heirs to carry your values forward.

Passing down values

Wealth often represents the accumulation of a lifetime of hard work. By passing down both financial wealth and values, you can ensure your legacy is preserved and future generations understand the principles that guided your success.

By instilling values like financial literacy, philanthropy and a robust work ethic, you’ll set your heirs up for success as well-prepared and responsible stewards of the wealth they inherit. Lead by example, set clear expectations, communicate openly, and provide your heirs with the opportunities to learn and make decisions. A unified – and communicated – vision for your family’s wealth will leave you feeling confident that your heirs understand the responsibility and great privilege of carrying on a meaningful legacy.

Next steps:

  • Open communication channels early to talk about responsible stewardship.
  • Encourage involvement with your heirs to promote philanthropy.
  • Talk to your advisor to set your intergenerational wealth plan in motion.


*This strategy does not assure a profit and does not protect against loss. It involves continuous investment regardless of fluctuating price levels of such securities. Investors should consider their financial ability to continue purchases through periods of low-price levels. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of capital. There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Withdrawals from tax-deferred accounts may be subject to income taxes, and prior to age 59 1/2 a 10% federal penalty tax may also apply. Matching contributions from your employer may be subject to a vesting schedule. Please consult with your financial advisor for more information.