This edition is dedicated to the loving memory of my father-in-law, Mickey Debbs.
Lots of things in life are learned or really hammered home only during or after a sad event. While there are still lots of lessons learned amidst happy times.
Recently I experienced the tremendously sad and sudden passing of my father-in-law. Note the word “sudden.” Most of us say out loud regarding death, “I want to go fast!” Or, “I don’t want a long and drawn out death.” But really, we have no idea. What if it is sudden?
Talk about prepared. One of the ways, in my opinion, we can all be truly unselfish in life is: upon our passing, whether sudden or prolonged, to leave our loved ones behind with very little, if any, doubt as to what happens immediately next. I am referring to having a Will and specific, written instructions as to what happens to our body after death. (P.S. My father-in-law was as unselfish as they come – and tremendously meticulous with his instructions.)
It is enough that a loved one passes away suddenly. But what about these factors (amazingly, several may sound similar to the basics of financial planning):
- What are the deceased person’s wishes?
- Who is immediately in charge of which tasks?
- How is the mourning to be handled? Privately or publicly?
- Is there to be a Mass? Memorial service? None?
- Will there be a wake and/or celebration of the person’s life?
- Who is paying for the various arrangements? Is there a limitation on who or what vehicle is paying?
For my clients, having at least a Will stating most or all of these things is a non-negotiable thing. No matter if single, married, parents or not, widowed or divorced my clients simply must have a Will in place. (Trusts can come next but can always be done later after a basic Will is in place.) Of course, like most things in life Wills can be simple or complicated. Most Wills are fairly simple and straightforward (trusts slightly less so). The costs for a Will can range from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars (the upper end is for more intricate Wills). An estate attorney can make the process simple – or he or she can talk in fancy, expensive language. Even for more intricate Wills and Trusts an effective attorney will speak in language you can understand. Find an estate attorney who makes the process straightforward.
Other extreme basics include:
- Naming beneficiaries for all of your financial and major assets (bank accounts, investment accounts, homes and businesses)
- Guardianship provisions for children as soon as you become parents
- Basic Powers of Attorney
- Healthcare Powers of Attorney/Healthcare Proxies, Living Will
The news media covers high-profile people and celebrities who have the financial means to receive far better advice than they choose while they are alive. How often do we hear of a famous person who dies without even a Will or any directives as to whom or where their wealth and/or businesses pass!?! This is a painful, painful burden to their families and loved ones – and is almost entirely avoidable. Please ask me about all of these items.
There may be things about which to be selfish in life, but upon death burdening those who cared for and loved you is not one of them. Mickey’s family was blessed.