Let’s be blunt: when you pass, you will no longer worry about what happens to your belongings, or your body, or anything in your life. But those you leave behind will be affected by your passing and it’s your responsibility to make it a smooth transition for them. You hear stories about families fighting over inheritances, then never speaking again. Or families arguing about healthcare decisions for loved ones that can no longer decide for themselves. Often, when working with an estate of someone who has passed, I hear the phrase, “I have no idea what they would want” in regards to the funeral, body/ashes, possessions/house, etc. No. Idea. So, how do you prevent your loved ones from feeling unsure or guilt when making decisions after your passing? You create a Lifetime Legacy Planner and let your loved ones know where it’s located.
My Personal Stories
This past summer, my family experienced the death of two loved ones. My Aunt was 72 and had been diagnosed with stage four kidney disease four years earlier. A silver lining to a nasty illness: advance notice. She was given time to plan. However, even with this time, after her passing, there was still some discussion on exactly how she wanted the service, her ashes spread, etc. Siblings believed she wanted everything a specific way while the widow said she changed her mind and wanted it a different way. Who’s right?
We also lost my 32-year-old cousin…with no advance notice. And between 8:00 AM on a Friday morning until the machines were turned off and his organs harvested at 6:16 PM on the following Tuesday, there were a lot of questions. Does he want to stay hooked up to machines? For how long? Does he want to donate his organs? Does he want to be cremated or buried? Does he want his mother to make these decisions or the love of his life?
Life is a beautiful gift but at any time, on any day, it can be taken away. So, plan. Plan for yourself, so that after you’re gone, your wishes are carried out. Plan for your loved ones, so the sadness of your loss is not exacerbated by the difficulty of making decisions. Plan. Plan. Plan.
How do you plan?
You create a document (view photo below for the table of contents from Strategic Hourglass Solutions’ Legacy Planner), then spend a few weekends or evenings creating your legacy by outlining all the information about yourself that is vital to the loved ones you leave behind. Whether that’s your parents or children or siblings or a friend or niece you’ve never met, a completed planner will allow them to fulfill your wishes after you pass.
Why should you care about creating a legacy planner? The most obvious answer: if you’re ever in a physical state where you can’t make decisions but are still alive, the people that you’ve empowered will know what you want to happen in most situations. In addition, as mentioned above, the more details you provide to your loved ones, the easier it is for them to find peace when making decisions.
What do you plan?
At a bare minimum, everyone (any age, any socioeconomic…everyone) should create the following four legal documents and keep each up to date:
- Last Will and Testament: a legal document outlining how to distribute assets upon death. In Texas, it’s legally binding if you hand write the entire document and sign it. Read more about the requirements here.
- Durable Power of Attorney: Giving someone you trust the ability to make financial and personal decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated or out of reach.
- Advanced Directive (or living will): state which medical procedures you want, wouldn’t want, and when to apply your wishes.
- Health Care Power of Attorney: designate someone to make medical decisions for you when you are not able.
Make sure you alert your designees, so they are aware of the responsibility and that they ACCEPT it. In addition, keep one in your safe, in a bank deposit box, or scan an electronic copy and send it to yourself or your designee. So many distribution options to ensue your wishes are carried out.
I wish for you (and your loved ones) to create a thorough legacy planner that allows loved ones to honor your wishes while dealing with the pain of loss.
If you need assistance completing a Legacy Planner (or company so that you actually complete the project), schedule a session with me today!