Successful couples naturally divide responsibilities.

She cooks, he cleans – or they take turns choosing restaurants. But they tend to manage their finances together, as a team.
Editor’s note: The examples here were drawn from client experiences and the details were changed.
That’s because the division of financial responsibilities, no matter how well intended, can produce unintended consequences. One partner may have built or inherited the family’s wealth; the other may feel as if it isn’t his or her right to become involved. One partner may be much more financially sophisticated; the other disengages out of timidity or disinterest. Often, one partner may feel just too busy, with a business or children, to fully participate in shaping their financial future.
These stumbling blocks, real or perceived, make it difficult to achieve the level of conversation necessary to ensure that each person’s values are appropriately reflected in their combined financial plan. Indeed, if one person takes full charge and the other assumes a need-to-know approach, the family as a whole can suffer. For instance, how much can they comfortably afford to spend? How accurate, really, is the more sophisticated investor’s assessment of their appropriate exposure to risk? Are the needs of the whole family, including the children and any other dependents, properly accounted for?
Spending and many other financial issues can become magnified in blended families. Consider the California man who had observed his partner spending in support of a child from a previous marriage and was anxious that the outlays came at a cost to their own retirement. In this case, the spending was well within reason and had little effect on their long-term goals as a couple. But the less sophisticated partner’s lack of knowledge about their affairs and a failure in communication created needless anxiety.
Fear, resentment and even mistrust can set in when couples don’t fully engage and communicate; emotions that are only compounded at times of crisis, such as an illness, the loss of a job or, as Jeff Maurer writes here, a market downturn.
The emotional fallout from divorce and death is even greater. In an extreme case in point, a widower was just recently made aware of the estate plan put into place by his wife, a successful publisher, and her former financial advisors. He has a life estate in the couple’s residence but will have access to liquid cash for his ongoing support only through a trust for which a longtime friend of the couple is trustee. Although the trust provides for his full support and his relationship had been good with the man who now has oversight of his assets, their friendship was destroyed. Worse, he still feels angry at the lack of transparency provided by his late wife.
Successful partnerships are built on shared goals and values. If it’s been a while since the last money conversation, meet together with your advisors to confirm that you are informed, educated – and on the same page – across all the aspects of your shared financial life. Here are a few suggestions to get started; please contact your advisor to address your specific circumstances.
Level set. An annual review by both partners with their advisor is the most practical way to establish a foundation for ongoing conversations. Details to review include the balance sheet (along with the location of assets and ownership), an account of all sources of income and spending, asset allocation, and a review of important estate planning documents like wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.
Speak up. A good advisor will want to know what is on both partners’ minds. He or she can speak with them together and/or one-on-one, to help fill in any gaps in financial knowledge, provide a current and future lifestyle analysis, and facilitate discussions around goals such as providing an education for grandchildren, establishing a philanthropic vehicle, or determining when and how to leave assets for future generations.
Address the hard questions. Will both of you have enough to live on? What if one spouse substantially outlives the other? Are you taking on too much – or too little – market risk? Are there gaps in your current wealth plan? Say you’ve helped one child during their life, or their children. Should you provide for equalization at your death? Do you share lifestyle, family and legacy goals? Are your assets allocated accordingly? Are the right documents and investment vehicles in place?
Invest some time in education. Evercore Wealth Management provides private wealth education for clients and their families, ranging from the basics of planning and investing to sophisticated seminars with our senior professionals and external managers. Everyone has something to learn, and it is our experience that couples do best when both partners are engaged in planning for their and their family’s future.
Kate Mulvany is a Managing Director and Wealth & Fiduciary Advisor at Evercore Wealth Management and Evercore Trust Company, N.A. She can be contacted at

Evercore Wealth Management, LLC ("EWM") is an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. EWM prepared this material for informational purposes only and should not be viewed as advice or recommendations with respect to asset allocation or any particular investment. It is not our intention to state or imply in any manner that past results are an indication of future performance. Future results cannot be guaranteed and a loss of principal may occur. This material does not constitute financial, investment, accounting, tax or legal advice. It does not constitute an offer to buy or sell or a solicitation of any offer to buy or sell any security/instrument, or to participate in any trading strategy. The securities/instruments discussed in this material may not be suitable for all investors. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives. Specific needs of a client must be reviewed and assessed before determining the proper investment objective and asset allocation which may be adjusted to market circumstances. EWM may make investment decisions for its clients that are different from or inconsistent with the analysis in this report. EWM clients may invest in categories of securities or other instruments not covered in this report. Descriptions provided in this material are not substitutes for disclosure in offering documents for particular investment products. Any specific holdings discussed do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold or recommended by EWM, and the reader should not assume that investments in the companies identified and discussed were or will be profitable. Upon request, we will furnish a list of all securities recommended to clients during the past year. Performance results for individual accounts may vary due to the timing of investments, additions/withdrawals, length of relationship, and size of positions, among other reasons. Prospective investors should perform their own investigation and evaluation of investment options, should ask EWM for additional information if needed, and should consult their own attorney and other advisors. Indices are unmanaged and do not reflect fees or transaction expenses. You cannot invest directly in an index. References to benchmarks or indices are provided for information only. The securities discussed herein were holdings during the quarter. They will not always be the highest performing securities in the portfolio, but rather will have some characteristic of significance relevant to the article (e.g., reported news or event, a new contract, acquisition/divestiture, financing/refinancing, revenue or earnings, changes to management, change in relative valuation, plant strike, product recall, court ruling). EWM obtained this information from multiple sources believed to be reliable as of the date of publication; EWM, however, makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of such third party information. Unless otherwise noted, any recommendations, opinions and analysis herein reflect our judgment at the date of this report and are subject to change. EWM has no obligation to update, modify or amend this information or to otherwise notify a reader thereof in the event that any such information becomes outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete. EWM’s Privacy Policy is available upon request. EWM is compensated for the investment advisory services it provides, generally based on a percentage of assets under management. In addition to the investment management fees charged, clients may be responsible for additional expenses, such as brokerage fees, custody fees, and fees and expenses charged by third-party mutual funds, pooled investment vehicles, and third-party managers that may be recommended to clients. A complete description of EWM’s advisory fees is available in Part 2A of EWM’s Form ADV. Trust services are provided by Evercore Trust Company, N.A., a national trust bank regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and/or Evercore Trust Company of Delaware, a limited purpose trust company regulated by the Delaware State Bank Commissioner, both affiliates of EWM. Custody services are provided by Evercore Trust Company, N.A. The use of any word or phrase contained herein that could be considered superlative is not intended to imply that EWM is the only firm capable of providing adequate advisory services. This material does not purport to be a complete description of our investment services. This document is prepared for the use of EWM clients and prospective clients and may not be redistributed, retransmitted or disclosed, in whole or in part, or in any form or manner, without the express written consent of EWM. Any unauthorized use or disclosure is prohibited. The Chartered Financial Analyst and CFA trademarks are the property of CFA Institute. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, Certified Financial Planner™ and CFP® in the U.S.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure:

Pursuant to IRS Regulations, we inform you that any U.S. Federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for (i) the purpose of avoiding IRS imposed penalties or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. This information is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute financial, investment, tax or legal advice.

©2016 Evercore Wealth Management LLC. All rights reserved.