How to Die Well; A Wealth Manager’s Perspective
June 3, 2020
A little over a year ago, I lost both a brother and a very close friend to cancer within two days of one another. While devastating, I was honored to be able to spend time with them prior to their passing, listening to their personal feelings and concerns about their cancer, their family, and their thoughts on death. In the end, both my brother and friend entered the same hospice facility, only a mere couple of rooms apart from each other. The parallels of their diagnosis and their journey were so similar, I wasn’t surprised when they ended up at the same facility, but it was still all so surreal. When my brother passed away, most of my close and extended family were there consoling each other. To my surprise, my friend’s family, who were visiting their loved one when my brother passed, came to be with my family during that time. They shared tears, hugs, and grieved with us. In that touching moment, I realized that they too would soon be living through this same experience. Two days later, I received news that my friend had passed, and my heart pained for his family.
As a follow up to my recent article, Sensible Estate Planning in the Time of COVID-19, I thought it important — with respect to planning for the worst outcome and hoping for the best — to address the difficult reality of losing a loved one to this devastating virus. Families impacted by COVID-19 have had no time to prepare, barely being able to say goodbye. Death can be a difficult transition for family members left behind. I believe that the greatest gift we could offer our loved ones is a sound estate plan. In my professional career as a wealth planner, I have seen the reality of people that plan for an unfortunate outcome and those who do not. It is easy to put off the planning for one’s death because people just do not like to think about it. A solid financial plan in place prior to a loved one’s death can provide the foundation a family needs to continue to honor their legacy with clear expectations, offering peace of mind that the deceased’s wishes are being carried through. Without this foundation, suffering after a death in the family can be unnecessarily extended by uncertainty, disorganization, and confusion over wealth transition.
Through my many years in wealth management and financial services, a sound estate plan has proven to me, time and time again, to be a sound investment of time and money. With the unexpected loss of life of many clients over the years, I have witnessed the differences in outcomes between the estates of those who prepared for death and clients that lacked any preparation whatsoever. As a result of my personal experience and my professional knowledge, I make it a point to focus on this area, assisting my clients in the most proactive way I can to prepare families for the unimaginable.
As part of my career path, I became an active member of the Estate Planning Council of Seattle — an association of estate attorneys, investment professionals, financial planners, insurance professionals, and accountants formed to increase the awareness and importance of estate planning. This group encouraged and supported me in obtaining a professional certification known as an ACCREDITED ESTATE PLANNER®. This designation supports the team concept in estate planning, whereby your estate attorney and wealth planners work together on your behalf to provide a seamless estate plan based on your specific goals and dreams.
My previous article, cited above, reviews many of the estate planning mistakes which can occur when professionals give advice without a thorough understanding of a person’s specific goals and objectives or any underlying estate plan. These are unfortunate, and also many times avoidable, missteps in the overall financial plan that can have an enormous negative impact on an estate. My dear colleagues at the Estate Planning Council have published a wonderful guide titled Dealing with the Death of a Loved One which I have found to be helpful in preparation for this often difficult, yet essential, work. This guide details every emotional and financial aspect of dealing with human loss. In my opinion, it is a must-read.
In a nutshell, I advise to be prepared, be thoughtful, and do not procrastinate as life does throw curveballs from time to time. Be well and stay safe.
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ACCREDITED ESTATE PLANNER® (AEP®) certification marks are owned by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. It is awarded only to estate planning professionals who meet special requirements of education, experience, knowledge, professional reputation, and character.