Menopausal symptoms start a few months before your last period and last, on average, four years. For some women these symptoms can last a decade or longer and that is really debilitating. the most important thing to remember is that the menopause is not an illness. It is your body adjusting to a new stage and for many women this stage is one of great freedom and contentment.
The first sign of this major change in your life is that your periods may become lighter and more irregular. On the other hand they may become very heavy and irregular too and there is no way of telling what path your menopause will follow as each woman's experience of the menopause will be different.
It does help to ask your mother though as heredity does play a part. Eventually, your periods will stop, but, in some instances a very, very, heavy period will occur some months later and it will be totally unexpected. I mention this, because if your mother had such an instance it may happen you also, and you may be caught totally unawares with no sanitary protection ... so be prepared for the unexpected up to one year after your last period.
Even though this unexpected heavy period is nearly always of no consequence (other than its unexpected arrival), it is wise to see your health care provider as all unexpected bleeding after your periods ceasing needs to be investigated.