We throw out lines like “you could get hit by a bus tomorrow” fairly frequently as matter of fact. We rarely take anything seriously about leaving for work or anywhere really and not returning home that day or ever again. “What if or in case something happens to me” is said regularly, but we tend to wait for that something to happen to really deal with it. Making moves once someone gets sick or sadly, unexpectedly dies is too late. Shouldn’t it be when not if?
When Jon’s great grandmother passed away unexpectedly in her 80s, it created chaos in the family. It’s not that she died young, but it was that the family didn’t prepare for her passing. There was no will, and her loss came as a shock nonetheless. Offspring fought over who should get what, and it ultimately tore the family apart. That’s an extreme case of what could happen if something should happen, but it happens more often than we think.
The last few pandemic years have especially taught how important it is to have a plan in place should the proverbial fit hits the shan. But, will “we” learn from this moment and all do something about it? We tend to think we have to worry about tragedy surrounding those of older age, but in the ins and outs of daily adult life, it hits us all. We need to take responsibility. Whether you’re older or younger, it doesn’t really matter. Unfortunately, you have to proactively be prepared for that moment at any moment. When there’s a will, there’s a better way to be prepared.
Communication with loved ones, an estate plan, organization – it all matters.
On a more general standpoint, it’s important that all your finances and important affairs are literally in order. Life insurance is a gift you can give your family. If you pass, will your children or their children know what your wishes are? Do they know how to access your computer?
Jon’s father constantly tells him and his sister where his affairs are. He points to a file cabinet that they look at with fear and dread. “It’s important you know,” he stresses time and time again. “Everything is in here.” It scares them. They don’t want to deal with it. But they get it. His dad remembers the strain it had on his in-law’s in that story summarized in the opening paragraph of this article.
As an advisor, Scott has helped his parents proactively plan and knows where everything is, but he may be a less common case. What about when children are young or you’re divorced? Who knows how to get to your docs or accounts?
Life is short. Life is unpredictable. Get your affairs in order is a phrase that’s annoyingly overused for a reason.
As the aforementioned example of Jon’s family, without a plan chaos ensures. In the end, planning for if something should happen is about much more than just a will or estate planning documents.
So what’s the best thing you can do while you are here?
Communicate: Leave a letter or a note with your wishes
Lave digital copies as well as hard copies of important documents in an accessible location
Give someone access to a safe or safety deposit box
Give someone access to your phone passcode
If you’re older, make sure you make clear directions for your children and grandchildren.
If one spouse pays all the bills and suddenly passes, make sure any documents you leave have necessary password
Where do you want to be buried? Do you want to be buried? Stress this.
Life is hard. Don’t make death harder. Make it clear what you want to happen when you’re gone. Life is short. Death is permanent. Leave a lasting legacy.
– Jon Chattman and Scott Coopersmith