Discussions with siblings about money-related issues can be fraught. Here are some tips from wealth coaches and financial advisers on how to tackle some of the potential obstacles.

Focus on your common interest. You may share more than you realize, said James Grubman, a psychologist and founder of FamilyWealth Consulting. “The sibling relationship is the longest-running one in our lives,” he said. “So you have to remain focused on the fact that repairing and preserving the sibling relationship is an interest that is part of the communication.”

Set up family conversations. Hire a financial adviser or other professional to mediate and facilitate these talks, Mr. Grubman said. If the issue is a particularly combative one, appointing an unbiased person to run the show can help keep conversations on track. This approach also allows an adviser to listen to and recognize all the sibling viewpoints, and potentially create a broad plan that tackles everyone’s concerns.

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Listen, listen, listen. Respect your sibling(s). “The lens you view your world in is different than your sibling,” said Thomas Lloyd, a certified financial planner and wealth adviser at Hemington Wealth Management. “Ask how they are feeling. That is the most important question. Avoid being judgmental. Don’t interrupt. Keep the communication lines open-ended.”


Avoid picking one sibling over another to be a trustee or executor. “I don’t recommend placing one sibling over another as trustee,” Mr. Grubman said. “You are confusing the sibling relationship with a financial relationship.” It can be helpful to choose an independent or corporate trustee and make the more financially capable sibling the trust adviser, or protector, who can provide advice but not make the ultimate decision, he said. “That gives everyone a little more arm’s-length relationship. At the heart of it is the power and control.”

Talk to your children about money. An inheritance is a real source of friction among siblings, said Amy Castoro, a family wealth coach and president and chief executive of the Williams Group. “The lack of clarity of how they were going to share in the wealth, how it was going to be divided, and an inability to talk about expectations can cause increasing tension,” she said. If you as parents aren’t comfortable talking about inheritances, Mr. Grubman said, write down your motivation for your decisions as a companion document to a will.

Kerry Hannon, photo by Photopia, Elizabeth Dranitzke


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