Carrie Sigler, Advisor
If COVID has taught us one thing in the last 2 years, it would likely be how unexpectedly life can change in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, we have seen many clients pass away over the past couple of years. With that comes a great deal of emotion, and sometimes confusion for their loved ones if they were not properly prepared beforehand.
I was a bit reluctant to have the focus of my first post be about death. However, after participating in so many meetings where I have witnessed client’s loved ones grieving while also struggling to understand and take over finances for a client that has passed, I know we are in the perfect position to provide some guidance on how to ensure your family is better prepared in case anything happens to you.
It’s completely normal to feel uncomfortable about sharing personal financial information and talking about death. However, over the years, Horizon Financial’s team of advisors has seen first-hand how much easier it is for families who have talked about what happens with their finances after their passing ahead of time than it is for those who did not. We can't take away the pain of losing a loved one; however, by sharing information ahead of time hopefully it can reduce some of the stress that it undoubtedly brings. There are a couple simple things you can do to help prepare your family.
The first thing you can do to make sure your family is prepared in the event of your passing is making sure a will, power of attorney, health care proxy, and living will are all in place. It is important to make sure everyone who is expected to play a role in executing any of these documents is aware of what their role will be and where they can find the documents when necessary. Having these legal documents is a great first step, however there is one more thing you can do to eliminate any confusion after your death. Sitting down with anyone who has a role in executing those legal documents to explain your specific wishes can be extremely helpful and take much stress off these individuals during the days leading up to and after your death.
In the past, we’ve encouraged clients to file these and any other important documents they want their heirs to have upon their passing in a fire safe. Creating files for wills, loans, and insurance policies is extremely helpful. Some clients have taken it one step further and prepared a document or binder that lists all their investment and bank accounts, insurance policies, contact information for accountants, attorneys, financial planners, and any other valuable information that their loved ones should know upon their passing.
If you choose to use some sort of organization system like I described above, I even suggest including a section laying out your wishes for your funeral/memorial. As a personal anecdote, when my grandma passed away a few years ago she had not shared any of those wishes with my mom. As my mom was arranging the music for her memorial, I couldn’t help but notice that “Amazing Grace” appeared on the list. I remembered back to the day I played that song on grandma’s organ, and although she complimented me, she went on to say how much she disliked that song and didn’t want that played at her funeral. How I remembered that conversation from 30 years ago, I will never know, but my point is that my mom would have never wanted to do something against grandma's wishes if she had only known.
Something we offer and encourage clients to do is bringing their children or other loved ones to one of their upcoming reviews. Several clients have done so over the past year, and everyone involved has found it to be worthwhile. As advisors, we enjoy these meetings because we can finally put faces to names and stories that we have heard over the years from our clients, and it’s much easier for us to meet them under these circumstances rather than after a client’s passing. We also find beneficiaries are much more comfortable with us when they already know who we are, how our firm runs, and how we manage your assets. If you would like to include a family member in your next review, please just let the client services team know when you're scheduling your appointment. They can easily arrange these meetings in person, over the phone, and via zoom to fit everyone’s busy schedules.
Lastly, helping your loved ones find the resources to become more knowledgeable about finances and the different accounts and tools available to them can be extremely helpful. Having some financial education can alleviate much of the stress our clients' families experience. We are offering two workshops in July and August that may help with this. They are called "Teaching Your Children about Financial Freedom," and are being offered both as an in-person seminar and online webinar, with registration available on our events page. Our goal is to help attendees understand the tools and strategies available to help them reach financial freedom and enjoy their life with less financial stress.
I hope that all our clients continue to live long, happy, and healthy lives. Planning for what happens with your finances after you pass away is a critical part of our job as financial advisors. Helping your family navigate through that difficult time is a role we take very seriously. By taking some of the simple preparation steps above, you can help to ease the stress on them significantly. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about the topics above, please call the office or bring it up at your next review. The team at Horizon Financial is here to be your trusted advisor, anywhere money touches life.