This year would’ve been my father’s 95th birthday. It got me thinking about the day I went to my mother, wondering what my Dad, who was seriously ill, had planned for her after he passed.
I was terrified to ask her that question. When I finally screwed up the courage, she made it abundantly clear: this was not a conversation she wanted to have.
I made it even clearer: avoidance was not an option. Here’s what happened next:
1. We had “The Talk.” I had Mom sit down with Dad and look at all their financial documents: bank statements, investments, estate planning, etc. This was not, by any means, an easy conversation. Nerves were frayed. Mom glazed over. Dad lost patience. I kept scratching my wrist (a nervous habit) until it bled. But by the end, Mom knew where every penny was and what arrangements he had (and hadn’t) made.
2. We assembled “ The Team.” My Dad was very much a do-it-yourselfer. Mom needed the support of professionals. First my sisters and I found an estate lawyer and together my parents created a very good, tax efficient estate plan. Then we helped her find an investment advisor and a CPA. She still meets with her team on a regular basis to this day.
3. We updated documents. We made sure the Will, Power of Attorney, EVERYTHING reflected their latest info and current wishes.
4. We had annual family meetings. These gatherings, though often emotional, put everyone on the same page while Dad was still alive. The meetings included my sisters, spouses, and all the grandchildren (we eventually had great grandkids crawling around too). My father shared his desires, needs and concerns, especially for continuing his philanthropic efforts.
By the time my father died, every detail was in order. There were no surprises. Practically speaking, his passing was seamless. Emotionally, it was devastating. But being financially prepared eliminated any aggravating hassles, giving us the time and space to fully grieve.
Have you ever put off a difficult conversation until it was too late? What would you do differently if you could? Leave me a comment below.