Leaving Your Financial Affairs in Order
by Mike and Elizabeth Murphy
Every family has its ideas of how money should be handled both in life and death. It’s true that we can’t take it with us, but we don’t have to leave a mess behind when we go.
It’s a reality that all of us will die. This time is filled with enough grief and sorrow without being complicated by money.
When we go, our money and possessions stay here to be divided among our loved ones. What is fair? What is right? How well do we have our financial house in order? Is this topic something that has been openly discussed with all parties involved? Have you thought about provisions for your children in the event both parents die? This is not easy stuff, but it is very important for the long-term financial health and well-being of your family.
Consider these three important questions.
Do You Have a Current Will?
Statistics say that most families don’t have a will. There is a common misconception that wills are only for the wealthy. Wills address the division of property when someone dies. Mike has his grandfather’s barbeque grill from the 1950’s, hardly an expensive item and yet of great sentimental value to him. It’s not just about the money.
Every adult should have a “Last Will and Testament,” especially those with children or dependants. We strongly suggest you seek professional legal counsel. A will can be a complicated legal document and laws differ from state to state. Don’t try to save a few dollars by doing it on the Internet. Update your will with your lawyer on an annual basis, or in the event of a significant life change like the birth of a child, a major move, or the death of a loved one.
Without a will, property and assets will be distributed by the state. Avoid setting your loved ones up for trouble.
Have You Talked with Your Family About These Issues?
Families need to discuss the subject of death while everyone is healthy and of a reasonable mind. Mike’s mother has been asking us for years what we would like when she dies. I’m beginning to see what a loving question this is. Mike’s family has done a wonderful job of communicating how their assets should be divided, and even planned their own funerals. This takes an element of fear out of their deaths for us. In situations where a family can’t or won’t sit down together to discuss a will, a letter can be sent to all family members explaining the rationale behind the will. This letter is not a legal document, but rather a way to communicate. If executed and communicated properly, your will should not be a surprise to your family. Consider it an act of love that will last long after you have gone.
Do We Want To Do What Is Fair or Do What Is Right?
We would encourage you to hold the ideal of being fair with an open hand. Families can be fractured in the “spirit of fairness” in a way that would grieve the one who has died. It’s more important for us to do what is “right” than what is “fair.” We aim to remember that an estate is only money and stuff. And, it’s not even our “stuff.” God is the owner of it all, regardless of who has possession. Don’t let a will or the dividing of an estate become a wedge that separates you from your family.
You can make the death of a loved one easier for yourself and those that will someday lose you by:
- Putting a legal will in place as soon as possible.
- Talking about these things with your family, even if you make them uncomfortable.
- Not allowing material things to become a wedge between you and your family. Be the one who is willing to lead with grace, forgiveness, and generosity.
Remember, nobody knows how many days they have on this earth. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Make getting a will a priority. Call an attorney this week to get your affairs in order - it’s an act of love.