Communication, an essential element in any family dynamic, becomes critical in both the anticipation and aftermath of a parent’s death. Open discussions, written instructions and a thorough evaluation of finances, insurance, charitable intentions and living wills can mitigate the natural trauma of loss.
The grieving process alone can cause tremendous stress. But, we’ve seen families negotiate this transition smoothly and in complete accordance with their parent’s wishes. We’ve also seen families struggle to regain their bearings, and still others torn apart by conflicting opinions and misinformation.
We advise our clients to keep their families informed throughout the accumulation and withdrawal phases of their retirement journey. Not all families are comfortable sharing this information in an open familial forum, so we also suggest specific instructions in the form of a letter.
Healthcare directives, a list of assets and liabilities, password and logins to online accounts, life insurance and long term care policies, deposit box and key locations, stock certificates, and key personnel contact information including lawyers, accountants and financial advisors should be listed in the letter, which can be safely stored in your home safe or with a trusted advisor.
You can include additional information regarding any personal wishes you have, charitable organizations to which you’d like to donate, valued items your family may not consider and any thoughts you may have regarding your funeral in the letter as well.
Once you’ve written the letter, and we suggest you do this as soon as possible, remember to review it annually and update it as needed.
Lastly, please remember to let the significant people in your life know where you’ve stored your letter. Imagine the tragedy of no one ever knowing your carefully written plans even exist. It happens.
A letter of instruction serves as a reassurance to you that your family will carry out your final wishes. It is also the kindest thing you can do for your family members, who will not have to struggle to make decisions and debate your intent.
If you have any questions about how to write your letter of instructions or where you can safely store it to protect the information in it and still leave it accessible to your family when the time comes, please don’t hesitate to ask.