Finances: Having difficult conversations with your loved ones

There are some things that we can go on and on about, but we know that many of us feel uncomfortable discussing illness, incapacity and death with our loved ones. These are sensitive topics but they're still important.

"When we talk about a will or protection mandate with our loved ones, we also need to talk to them about illness and death," says Angela Iermieri, a financial planner with Desjardins.

"We need to change how we think about these life events," says Guylaine Beaumier, a social worker and psychotherapist. "A family is like a small or medium-sized business. Some files need to be managed to ensure that operations are running smoothly. And just as we discuss our summer vacation plans, death-related financial matters need to be part of the discussion, too."

As the saying goes: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. "Not only should we discuss our wishes with our parents and children, but we should do it while we're in good health," says Iermieri.

What should be discussed exactly?

"Ask clear and direct questions," says Beaumier. "Ask your parents: Do you have a will? Who is your lawyer? Who will manage your finances when you're no longer able to? Do you have a protection mandate?"

Before you finalize your will and protection mandate, you should discuss them with your family. "This is to ensure there are no surprises," says Iermieri. "It's an effective and reassuring way to inform your loved ones of the estate liquidator/executor and of the terms and conditions of the estate."

Make your financial information available

Iermieri also stresses how important it is to make an inventory of your assets, write down your instructions and give your family access to the information they'll need to settle your estate.

"To make things easier, I always advise people to prepare a document with all their financial information for their heirs," says Iermieri. "For example, the document should include insurance policy details such as the name of the insurance company, policy number, insurance amount, beneficiary's name, and the name and contact information of the advisor in charge of the file."

It's important to make a list of all your financial and legal information, and attach supporting documents such as your birth certificate, marriage/divorce certificates, your prearranged funeral invoice and a copy of your notarized will. Make sure you keep the file in a safe place, like a personal safe or a safe deposit box rented from your financial institution.

"Poor estate planning can have tax impacts on heirs," says Iermieri. "And what we forget is that even with a notarized will, we still need to plan and communicate with our family. Otherwise, heirs may feel emotionally or financially stressed out--something they don't need on top of dealing with a difficult situation."

See our Personal inventory of assets and important documents: