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Talking About Inheriting Money Is Worse Than Talking About Death Itself

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Talking about money among family is often taboo. A Wells Fargo study notes that 44% of U.S. adults say personal finance talks are the most difficult -- ahead of death (38%), politics (35%), religion (32%), taxes (21%) and personal health (20%) . 

But not talking about money can be hazardous to your financial health, experts say.

"It's not surprising people don't want to talk about money, investments, tax strategies or even how much to put aside for a child's education," says Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement at Wells Fargo. "But not spending time today to think about the future can be costly in the long run. I think of personal finance in the same vein as my health: I wouldn't keep concerns about my physical health private. I'd consult a doctor or talk to a friend or family member about it."

One area where American families could really use some help in discussing money matters is estate planning -- specifically, a family member's inheritance.

Also see: Parents Don't Want to Talk Money With Their Adult Children

A separate study from UBS Wealth Management says benefactors and heirs are OK with the idea of "giving and receiving" an inheritance, but they don't really like talking about it; as a result, 46% of 2,800 U.S families surveyed say the family parent or parents "have not discussed their inheritance plans with their children."

Yet as UBS points out, there is $40 trillion in inheritance money on the table from now until 2050, so discussing how it all is going to be distributed is a conversation well worth having.

The primary reasons not to talk about inheritance issues involve either indifference or emotions about money. As the study breaks it down: 

  • It doesn't feel like a pressing issue (43%)
  • Parents don't want offspring to count on the inheritance (32%)
  • Parents don't want their children to feel entitled to wealth (27%)
  • Younger family members don't want to discuss money out of family tradition (46%)
  • Children don't want to "appear greedy" (23%)

Also see: More Complicated Modern Families Come With Financial Complications Too

"Inheritance can be a complex and sensitive issue for both sides. Parents don't want to talk about mortality and children don't want to appear greedy by bringing it up," says Paula Polito, a strategy analyst at UBS Wealth Management Americas. "But the fact of the matter is that it's a conversation that needs to be had among families. Open lines of communication and advance planning are critical to ensuring a smooth transfer of wealth and to preventing future conflict among heirs."

Polito's advice to families on discussing an inheritance is to "embrace the issue" and to understand that actually having that conversation leads to "more satisfaction" among benefactors and heirs.

UBS also notes that potential heirs don't plan on closing off their families when they are preparing their estate, and 72% of survey participants say they will handle inheritance issues differently than their parents.

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