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In many families, money is never discussed. And it is still common for children – even when they are adults – to be kept in the dark when it comes to the family's wealth during their parents' lifetime. Why is it so difficult to discuss this issue within a couple, and even more so between generations?

Give yourself time to reflect and define a space for discussion. Danielle Goedert, Commercial Director, Private Banking Luxembourg and Germany

Accounting for love

Money is an integral part of our daily lives and yet we find it difficult to talk about it, especially with those we are close to. Why do we persist in thinking that keeping accounts is not a natural fit with love? Probably because to admit otherwise would not be very endearing. Probably too because we sense that the question of dealing with money between spouses or parents says a lot about them, their history and their relationships, perhaps a good deal more than one might think.

Still a taboo 

It seems it is harder than ever to raise the issue. For how can you talk about money when relationships within the family are expected to be structured according to principles of sharing and generosity? Does money undermine family relationships? The paradox is that the more we make money a taboo, the more we avoid recognising its impact on the couple and the family, the more we weaken the relationship and the bonds of love. Money in the family has a deep connection with relationship and identity issues that it is important to understand before the crucial stage of passing on the family wealth.

Speaking freely 

Nowadays, the next generation wants to have a say in the handover project and also expects to be trusted. The decisions of the transferor will be understood, accepted and above all implemented if they reconcile the aspirations of each member of the family. Hence the importance of giving yourself time to reflect and define a space for discussion in which everyone can contribute to the development of solutions that take into account the wishes of both the parents and the children. Talking helps bring to the surface hitherto unspoken ideas, fantasies and unconscious beliefs passed from generation to generation – all potential sources of misunderstanding and hurt during the succession process.

The right support for the handover  

Every transfer has a material, legal and fiscal dimension. But the human or intangible aspects of a family’s wealth (its origins, the way it was built, etc.) are also a fundamental consideration. The transfer project should start from scratch, with a clean sheet; there are no ready-made solutions. And every family is entitled to co-construct its own solution. It is up to the transferor to draw up the framework for the transfer. This framework must be broad enough to allow the heirs to express their individual aspirations. The legal and tax solutions will only be sustainable if they are based on a consensus developed by all the stakeholders. It is sometimes difficult to say things within the family. Involving a third party often helps to establish a more harmonious dialogue. This is where our role of facilitator is invaluable to our clients.

More information

Danielle Goedert
Head of Private Banking Luxembourg
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