By Peter Boys, CAFA
The Financial Coach
We are all guilty of putting off talking about touchy feeling things with our spouse and children. We get busy with the activities of earning a living and all the other things that take up our days. Here are five simple suggestions of things we should do either with or for our families before we leave this mortal world. None of us will take any of our worldly possessions with us other than the clothes on our back.
Tell your family your wishes as to the disposition of your estate
It’s often been said before, none of us can read minds, and we don’t know what we don’t know. You may have several good reasons for the unequal treatment of your family members in your will (such as an heir with a disability). If you don’t explain your reasons though, unequal treatment of those left behind can be construed as being “unloved”. Before you put the final touches to your estate documents, let your family members know what you intend to do, and work out any of the issues. You can’t explain your intentions after you are gone.
Pay for a family vacation
Travel brings people out of their comfort zone and creates interaction that would otherwise never occur. It may not be all love and honey – family dynamics are what they are – but you may be pleasantly surprised at what happens when your adult children and their families interact outside of their day-to-day lives. It doesn’t have to be an African safari (although those are great if you can afford it). Just make it two nights or longer at a place that’s away from anyone’s family home or cottage. If family can drop all plans and attend your funeral (they surely will), they can create time for a family trip before this happens.
Give some gifts during your lifetime
We all know the saying “you can’t take it with you.” As much as we believe it, it can be hard to act on it. We (secretly) think we’ll live forever. We won’t. Get the joy from sharing now. So as the song says, “let it go”, or at least let some of it go. If you have surplus wealth, or surplus assets of value such as artwork that will never fit in a newly downsized space, share things now rather than after you’re gone.
Record some early memories
We all have likely experienced this at a family gathering. You tell a simple fact about your early life and someone says: “I never knew you spent a summer in New York City.” It shouldn’t surprise any of us as our adult children can’t possibly know about the 30 or 40 years of our lives before they were born unless we talk about them.
Tell your family what your funeral intentions are: It’s a hotly debated question: is a funeral for the living or for the dead? In most cases, it’s for both. It makes sense to put some thought into what you envision for your funeral and then talk to your family to work towards a plan that everyone can agree on. Your family will want to honour your wishes but can’t if they don’t know what they are. There are different levels of pre-planning, both formal and informal, but having yours and your families wishes documented can go a long way toward a smooth process at a difficult time.