A lot of money is involved in the great wealth transfer that is upon us, but the generations are not talking with each other enough about it, say financial experts.

Although communication has improved somewhat between benefactors and inheritors, heirs are still woefully unprepared to preserve and grow the wealth their predecessors have collected, says a study by Royal Bank of Canada Wealth Management.

Some $3.2 trillion to $4 trillion will go to the next generation during the next decade in the United States alone, says the RBC report, “Lasting Legacy.” And the earlier the benefactor generation talks to inheritors, the more likely the latter will have the skills to manage the money.

But people are disorganized and inconsistent in the way they hand down information, and they start talking about it way too late—usually when the heir is at an average age of 27, RBC says.

“Financial advisors need to determine what estate planning their clients have in place and impress upon them the importance of talking to the next generation,” says Bill Ringham, vice president and senior wealth strategist for RBC Wealth Management-U.S. The   study says that 30% of benefactors have nothing planned for transferring wealth, and another 40% have only a will or some other rudimentary document that is probably out of date.

Only 37% have talked to the inheritors about the family money and the wishes of the wealth creators.

These numbers have to improve, or the inheritors risk losing the family wealth through bad decisions within one or two generations, a number of advisors emphasize.

“There needs to be a constantly occurring discussion between the generations as life situations change and evolve,” says Jonathan Albano, a partner and financial planner at CCR Wealth Management in Westborough, Mass. “Some of our clients find themselves uncomfortable talking about money, but others are finding it easier as they get older.

“We try to tell them it is easier for the next generation to understand what the family legacy is if they talk about it, rather than just leaving a written will,” he says. “When benefactors realize certain steps need to be taken in advance if their wishes are to be carried out, they become more open to talking to their adult children about where the money is and how much the children and grandchildren are going to inherit.”

Leslie Thompson is a managing principal at Spectrum Management Group in Indianapolis, a firm that deals with high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients. She says people in general are not talking about the transfer of vast amounts of wealth because they do not know how to start talking about it or what to say.

“We try to get our clients to talk about it before there is an urgent situation, but sometimes there are jealousies within the family that hinder that process,” Thompson says. “One client told the kids what they would inherit and the kids wanted the parents to help them out immediately. That client ended up being sorry she told the kids everything. Each family is different.

“We try to create gifting documents along the way to show that distributions from the baby boomers to the millennials and Gen Xers are equitable,” she adds.

Working with the inheriting generations can also shore up the advisors’ businesses since studies show few inheritors stay with their parents’ advisors. Advisors can retain their clients’ children and grandchildren by giving them proper attention. In this way, the younger clients continue to rely on their parents’ firm for advice and also become less likely to squander the money they inherit, the advisors say.

The wealth creators also need to educate the succeeding generations about the expenses they will face in managing their inheritance and how to grow the money rather than just spending or saving it, says Rebecca Walser, a wealth management advisor who works with high-net-worth clients at Tampa, Fla., firm Walser Wealth.

“Children are often unaware of all the unseen expenses that go into running a household” and managing an estate, Walser says. Besides talking to children, parents and grandparents should actively encourage the kids’ entrepreneurial spirit. “Your children may not need or want to work, but a job can help teach a lot about having a solid work ethic, the importance of getting a good education and competition in the marketplace.”

Blended families face additional problems in moving the family wealth to the next generation, according to Kimberly Foss, president and founder of Empyrion Wealth Management, based in Roseville, Calif.

“How do you deal with the step kids and the second spouse?” Foss asks. “This is something to include in the conversations when the benefactors are in their 50s and 60s. They may not want to talk about this when they are a long way from dying, but as an advisor you have to open the door.

“Steps have to be taken to draft the will, set up a trust, and make sure beneficiaries are up to date. Sometimes there are discount shares in a business to pass on. I had clients in my office recently who are in their 60s and they had not had this conversation yet. I opened the door to the conversation and encouraged a family meeting where they could talk about the inheritance.”

“Our job is to be the facilitator,” says Steven Dudash, president of IHT Wealth Management in Chicago. “If they created the wealth, they think they are never going to die. This has been the case forever. The other thing in the way is that this is a tough conversation for them to have.

“Young people have so much more access to data today that they are not as naïve as previous generations, but the traditional breakdown in communication between the generations is not getting better,” Dudash adds. “The consequences of not talking to each other could be that the government gets all the money in taxes.”

Two sisters in their mid-20s who are clients of Dudash recently inherited substantial wealth. “I am the one in the position to say no when they get propositioned about investments. Financial advisors are more like life consultants today, rather than just stock pickers,” he says.

It worries Dudash most when clients want to start a business with their new inheritance. “It will seem like a good idea on paper, but it isn’t. A client can blow through a lot of money really fast that way. The family members have to talk about doing the right thing now and moving forward,” he says.

Other advisors, like Kathy Nalywajko, a principal at 1919 Investment Counsel in New York, see the communication problem improving somewhat.

“Clients are more willing to talk with each other now than they were 30 years ago when I started,” she says. “One good way to start the family conversation is to talk about philanthropy. Give the children a small amount to donate to their causes. This gives the conversation some structure.” Then it can branch out to other topics.

“The majority of cases of ‘shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations’ plays out when the children are not educated,” she adds. “Early communication with the next generation is a key driver to success in preserving the wealth.”