Think About your Future
I turned fifty years old in 2014 and have noticed a change in the season of my life. The time of three little ones running through our house has progressed to two daughters in college and an independent high-schooler. Our parents are in their mid-seventies, and though they are active, we find ourselves worrying about their health and well being. Time spent with family becomes more important to us as life continues to march forward. My wife lost her mother last year after a long battle with cancer. I experienced firsthand the difficulty of managing the day-to-day activities of three active teenagers while caring for a sick parent. I watched as my father-in-law struggled with the emotional and financial challenges of losing his wife.
I have worked alongside clients for over twenty-six years, and I am helping more of them each year navigate uncertain and chaotic times. Through all these situations, I have been humbled and privileged to hear the story of each person’s life. Each one has its share of comedy, passion, joy, heartache, and perseverance. Although all are wonderfully different, they each have in them life lessons that can encourage us, prepare us, and teach us. As I think about my wife and family, I ask myself what lessons should I share with them now? What should we all want those we care about to know and do in the event of our passing? There seems to be a few common threads that make this life transition a little easier for our families.
First, the basics. We should have our estate plan in order. We need to make certain our wills, powers of attorney, and other estate documents are updated and reflect our wishes. We should confirm that our beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and insurance policies are correct. We should make everyone aware where to look for contact information, policy numbers, account numbers, and passwords. We should, at the very least, discuss burial wishes and funeral arrangements. All of these details are important and need be addressed but aren’t the most significant items for my family to know.
More important, the team. We should encourage them to seek wise counsel and to know there are good, caring, competent people that they can trust who will shepherd them through this difficult time. Before we hire anyone in our firm we ask, “Would we be comfortable with this person taking care of my family when I am gone?” I want them surrounded with a collaborative team of compassionate professionals. Important team members could be your accountant, estate attorney, life insurance expert, property and casualty agent, and financial advisor.
Most important, the story. We should share our story with those we care about. We should take the time to share ourselves. Our families should know where we were born and what our childhood was like. They should know about our parents and grandparents and the important lessons they passed on to us. They should be told about how their mom and dad met and what the early days of the relationship were like. They should know about the important decisions we made as we determined our career path. They should hear about our mistakes and missteps and how we corrected them. They should be told how proud we are of them and how they can do a lot more than they think. Life is fast-paced, days race by, technology makes us all less equipped to carry on meaningful conversations but slowing down and being intentional in setting time to share ourselves may be the greatest gift that we can give to our family.
We have an obligation to make certain our estate is in order for the well-being of our families. We need to show our loved ones how to trust others, how to ask for help, and how to surround themselves with wise counsel. But more important than that, we have the privilege and opportunity of sharing our lives and making certain those we care about know our unique stories.