I have seen it over and over: a beloved parent dies and the adult children do not know where to start. The first question is always, “What do you think they would have wanted?”
Once the question is out, then the arguments begin. All relatives have opinions informed by their own experiences, and they rarely agree. “She told me this.” “She supported this.” “She would never have done that.” It causes strife during a time when people could be focused on grieving and carrying out their loved one’s wishes.
The sad part is it does not end there. Beyond the practices for mourning and celebrating their loved one’s life, adult children are responsible for details and logistics too. “Do you know what her passwords were?” “No. What about their financial accounts, do you know who we should call?” “What about insurance, did she have insurance?” Finding passwords, locating and inventorying accounts, managing insurance policies, and determining who needs to be contacted—the list goes on.
Unfortunately, too many times this crucial information—where everything is, what their wishes are and who to contact—dies with the person. The greatest gift you can leave your children is clear, organized information. It is so important to provide this information so when the time does come when they have to say goodbye, they have time to grieve and celebrate your life, rather than being put under the pressure of wondering what your wishes were or where to find everything.
Some of the items that are often forgotten and forever lost include:
- End of life wishes;
- Retirement or Pension Plans at old employers;
- Stock purchased through the company;
- Burial plots or policies purchased;
- Intellectual property;
- Electronic property;
- Relatives unknown to children; and
- Valuables that the children were not aware were valuable.
There are a number of ways you can share this information. One option, which many people find overwhelming, is to sit down and have an end of life discussion with your loved ones. This also has the potential drawback of people misremembering or forgetting details when the time arrives. Another option is to fill out an end of life checklist and to alert your family members to its existence. Filling out an end of life checklist may be difficult, but no one wants to leave surviving loved ones with arguments, fights, or lawsuits that last lifetimes.
Because I’ve seen how critical this is for the well-being of families, I’ve created a free end of life checklist that you can download by signing up for our e-mail list. You can also contact your own financial advisor for a list. Most people would gladly give up their inheritance to know what their parent would have wanted. Take the time to do it now—start today, this week. It’s hard emotional work, but it is a gift that can only come from you.