The Inheritance Planning Problem: Outdated and Lacking Transparency

Family wealth transfers can often be outdated and lack transparency, according to a recent report from Cerulli Associates. The study shows that nearly $70tn is expected to be transferred over the next 22 years, but interactions between clients and advisors about inheritance plans are often insufficient, leading to conflicts and misunderstandings.

The report indicates that 79% of asset owners plan to express their intentions and goals to their families before passing away, yet only 46% of them do so. Cerulli’s research director, Scott Smith, says that discussions between advisors and clients to inform family members about inheritance and its rationale are missing.

The report highlights that many advisors who consider themselves not to be holistic financial planners would need to move out of their comfort zone to pursue bequest discussions. While only 26% of respondents said that their heirs were well-informed about their intentions for bequests, those who were more affluent were more likely to be in this category.

Cerulli found that clients’ tendency to keep their financial information private is also a significant factor. According to Smith, talking to next-generation clients about wealth transfer often falls to the bottom of advisors’ to-do lists because of the lack of immediate return on investment.

Advisors can begin to improve the situation by asking three questions when discussing a wealth transfer: do you have a plan, has it been documented, and what’s our next step? By doing so, they can foster better relationships with clients and their families, encouraging transparency and preventing potential conflicts.

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