"WHAT AM I GOING TO DO NOW?"
"I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE EVERYTHING IS!"
"HE/SHE TOOK CARE OF EVERYTHING – I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE DETAILS!"
And, the list of sad statements just continues without details lovingly documented and communicated. As a comprehensive planner and with one of my favorite tag-lines during my career has been, "carrying families through the circumstances of life", I try very hard to never hear a surviving loved one have to say one of the statements at the beginning of this article!
"Smooth" may not be a word that would come to mind in a season when a family member becomes incapacitated or deceased. Obviously there is emotional pain, sometimes shock, a disorientation, a feeling of emptiness that comes into survivors' lives. "Smooth"? Well, let's try to at least make some issues that MUST be handled "smoother" than it would be without proper documentation. Only prayers and faith can help heal the emotional trauma of losing a loved one. However, the transition that must take place can be made much less chaotic, and the family can handle the mandated "transition" much more peaceably if there has been proper communication and mentoring.
Assets may have already been structured well. Legal docs may be already in place. A person's will and/or Trust is indeed important to have been constructed and documented. We are told that 70% of Americans do not have an estate plan! These "planning issues" are a "must"! Hopefully the reader has their assets and legal docs all in good order. HOWEVER, it is the little details of life that can make a "legacy transition" very rough and perplexing on those left behind. Surviving loved ones will have a difficult enough task to deal with your incapacity or death. You will WANT TO make their handling of family issues as smooth as possible.
What about the following – do key family members know:
Where the asset accounts are handled?
What are the existing liabilities?
Where would the deceased prefer to be buried?
Where is the listing and contact info for existing life insurance policies?
Who is the "advisor" that knows the most about the details of accounts, etc.?
What is the password of the deceased's computer in which much important information is stored?
And…the list of "unknowns" continue without someone making these issues known in a document such as is being discussed here.
What is the most unifying element of your family? What will hold your family together when patriarch and matriarch pass? Will the wealth you have accumulated be squandered within one generation because there was never any "family meeting" where "Purpose" had been discussed and established? Why not begin the process of working together to make the legacy you leave behind…a "smooth transition"?