We buried my parents’ ashes on their wedding anniversary in November. It was a lovely autumn day in Seattle’s rainiest year. We picked their anniversary because it was one of Dad’s favorite dates, and we started at 11:11 AM, his favorite number. We were celebrating him this time; Mom passed six years ago and her ashes sat on the mantel with photos, keeping him company.
We four kids were blessed to be raised with values of family, education, achievement, courage, and adventure. We continued to learn and grow these values in the last decade as we supported my parents through their final chapter. Fifteen years ago, when my father was recovering from a traumatic brain injury, we started a family book group to read ‘Caring for your Parents’. Before then I had not known what long-term care and eldercare were, what the role of a Durable Power of Attorney was or the importance of a well-written Medical Power of Attorney. In the fifteen years since, as my father recovered, cared for my mother in her decline, and then passed, the lessons begun with that book served me well.
And my practice as a personal financial adviser was strengthened by my real-life experience with family.
Preparing for our own long-term plans is never easy. Heck, I still feel 35, don’t you? We don’t want to envision deterioration and death and so we often delay preparations for less pleasant outcomes. Let me help you to frame the issues:
- You won’t take anything with you so who do you want to receive your precious stuff – your heirlooms and trinkets? And what about larger items like investment accounts, your home? What about your body? If you don’t make these decisions, who will?
- If you aren’t able to think or speak clearly, does someone know where your accounts are, what the username, password, and account numbers are?
- If you can’t communicate with your doctor, have you made clear how you want your wishes to be understood and acted on?
If you want these things to be done by your preference, by your direction, it may be time to sit down and think some things through, and put instructions in place.
For your stuff, there is a page in your will that lists personal possessions. You can make sure that tea set gets to your favorite niece who admired it, or the pocket watch to your always-punctual nephew.
Your larger assets like your home and investments can transfer by a Will, or by a Revocable Trust. Some investment accounts will “TOD,” transfer on death; retirement accounts will always transfer by beneficiary designation. Be sure to review and update the ownership of accounts, and the beneficiaries. Have you heard the story of the happy ex-wife whose ex-husband forgot to switch his IRA beneficiary when he remarried?Make sure that doesn’t happen in your family!
There may come a time when your math skills and tech skills weaken slowly, or very quickly. At that time, who do you want to step in for you to manage your money and pay your bills? They’ll need what I call the ‘Break Glass in Case of Fire’ list. Where do they find summary instructions and a list of accounts and the confidential data they’ll need to access accounts? This person will be your Power of Attorney and/or Trustee during life, and your Executor or Trustee at death. If you don’t have family that you want to request this of, you can choose a professional personal representative. They are not paid until they begin working for you.
I was so grateful to my parents for making their own arrangements. When my mother passed, we did not have to call the morgue or a funeral director, or even think about what she wanted. The funeral home’s personnel were very kind and professional as they handled the final arrangements for her and then for Dad. And my parents put their cemetery choice in place, so that too was ready for them.
My father’s Medical Power of Attorney was so helpful when we were in the really tough position to consider what to do about life-extending drugs or procedures, and that happened more than once. His language was clear for us to read and recall the man he was and the things he valued in life. It wasn’t easy, but we were able to make those hard decisions because we knew we were acting out of love and respect for him and his wishes.
You’ll find a helpful list here of the kinds of documents you should create and organize as you step into planning for the next phase. If I can be of any help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by email.
The material is provided for your general informational purposes only. Neither New York Life Insurance Company, nor its agents, provides tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult your own tax, legal, or accounting professional before making any decisions.
Laurie Adams, www.Laurie-M-Adams.com, is a Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Eagle Strategies LLC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Registered Representative offering securities through NYLIFE Securities LLC (member FINRA/SIPC), A Licensed Insurance Agency. Eagle Strategies and NYLIFE Securities are New York Life companies. Agent, New York Life Insurance Company. Registered Branch Address 18500 NE 4th St, Bellevue, WA 98004, 425-462-4800.