One Way to Let Your Kids Know About Your End-of-Life Wishes: Send Them a “Financial Love Letter”
Here on the Blog, we’ve presented dozens of articles with a similar theme: how to make certain your family knows your wishes as you approach the end of your life.
None of us has a crystal ball accurate enough to know when we’ll draw our last breath, or what will happen to us in the months before we do. By the same token, none of us wants to be a burden to those we love. Sadly, however, our decline and eventual passing will inevitably put stress on our loved ones, and we’ll only make that stress more acute if we refuse to plan ahead – and communicate clearly with family.
This week we’re presenting this familiar idea in a fresh new way. In this article from Business Insider, writer Laura Wheatman Hill describes how her father, age 76, made his wishes known to Laura and her sister by writing them what Hill calls “a financial love letter.” Make no mistake, this gentleman had done his planning carefully, but he chose to communicate this important information in a highly personal way that left no question about what was supposed to happen and when.
Could this be an idea you want to try? Take a look at Hill’s article and see. (By the way, some of Hill’s tips come from a website called Family Love Letter.com.)
Important Information in a Personalized Letter
Hill begins her article by recounting the day a few years ago that her then-76-year-old father gave her a file labeled “financial love letter”. In this file was a copy of his will along with further instructions on what to do if he was incapacitated or passed away suddenly.
“The letter had his lawyer and bank contact numbers as well as passwords and other sensitive information,” Hill writes. “I glanced at it and put it in my file cabinet.”
But this year, Hill and her sister both received a new addendum from their father. It was his advanced care directive. “I saw from the document that he drew it up with an estate lawyer,” Hill explains. “According to the document he gave me, his oldest child, power of attorney if he was unable to make his own decisions. I’m also the executor of his estate when the time comes.”
It’s Much More than Simply a Will
The advanced care directive covers everything, in no uncertain terms, that Hill’s father wanted as far as medical intervention, funeral procedures, and even music choices in the event that he was rendered unable to advocate for himself, such as in the case of a stroke.
“At Thanksgiving, he gave my sister and me each an updated file with his new will, the advanced care directive, and a USB with the documents uploaded digitally,” Hill writes. “He also told me he has hard copies of everything in a safety deposit box at his bank that I have access to.”
She adds, “I visited my childhood best friend on my holiday weekend visiting home and told her all about my dad’s letter. Even though both her parents are alive and therefore each other’s executors, I encouraged her to ask them if they have all this set up in case something happens to one or both of them.”
Clear Planning Brings a Sense of Relief
Hill notes that while it’s morbid to think about her dad’s mortality, she and her sister are mostly relieved to know that he has put so much work into making his wishes crystal clear. There is no “gray area” about who gets what.
“I’m not going to have to debate with my sister about whether he wants resuscitation or extended care if he is in a vegetative state or has reached the end stages of a degenerative condition — he told us,” Hill writes. “He also told me I get to use my best judgment about moving him to a facility near me if he needs care.”
She adds, “He planned and paid for his funeral, reserved the plot next to our mother, and gave me step-by-step instructions for who to talk to about selling his house and dividing up his assets.”
He even thought about possible conflict after his death, and on advisement from his lawyer has not told Hill, her sister, or any of the other beneficiaries of his will how much money each will be receiving, to reduce possible issues.
Dad’s Example Inspires Daughter to Do the Same
The peace of mind that her father’s forethought has brought Hill has spilled over into putting her own affairs in order.
“My dad’s exhaustive work reminded me that I never updated my will after my divorce. I didn’t set up my kids’ college fund in my name, either,” Hill explains. “I need to set up a trust for them so that if I die, their father has access to my estate to use for the care of our kids. If somehow my ex-husband and I both die before my kids are adults, I need to make sure my kids’ next of kin is properly acknowledged and the trust would go to them.
Hill admits that the paperwork is “not fun”, and obviously it requires an expense when paying a lawyer to help. “However, having everything set up so your family or other beneficiary knows what to do when you die or become too ill to care for yourself is a true act of love,” she writes.
Concluding her article, Hill ends on a note of relief and gratitude: “My dad says he’s shooting to live until age 92. I very much hope he makes it, and is happy and healthy along the way. That said, I’m very relieved to know that whenever it happens, it’ll be clear how to best honor him and move on with peace and clarity.”
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(originally reported at www.businessinsider.com)