One of the most important steps of making plans to care for loved ones left behind should the unthinkable happen is to communicate your wishes with the family. Sharing your plans helps ensure that they are conducted according to your desires and helps eliminate family squabbles over post-mortem activities.
Token of Love
Getting your affairs in order is a gift of love. Your family will appreciate that you have taken the guesswork out of how to care for your person, possessions, and people if you become incapacitated or die. But all the time and energy you spend in creating a thoughtful blueprint for your family to follow is for naught if nobody knows that the plans exist. Sharing the plans also provides your family a chance to ask questions and clarify certain details. They may mention concerns that you may not have thought about and need to address.
Keeping the Peace
Widows and widowers from all ages and circumstances report time and again how adult children and/or extended family members often insert themselves without invitation into the process of arranging funeral services and/or distributing or selling assets and property. The family of the deceased (the in-laws of the survivor) are especially notorious for doing this. They often claim ownership of possessions or that their relationship to the deceased gives them authority to override the wishes of the immediate family.
All of this can be minimized by putting your plan in writing with all the appropriate signatures and notarizations and then sharing it with the family. You do not necessarily need to share all the details, but you should at least make sure the family knows that you’ve given it serious thought, made plans, and that you expect them to honor your wishes after you are gone.
Once your end-of-life plan is set, call a family meeting together to share your desires. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to include your children, parents, siblings, in-laws, and anyone else who will be impacted by your wishes. The more who are involved in the meeting the better. When it comes time to put the plan into action, all of those in attendance can serve as witnesses to your wishes should anyone try to muscle their own ideas of what should happen into action. A group meeting also gives people a chance to ask questions and get some clarification on any issues that might be challenged later on. Record the meeting to give executors and family members another tool to carry out the deceased’s wishes accurately.
Though a certainty of life, death is a hard topic to discuss so it may be uncomfortable to have these conversations, especially if the meeting comes after a terminal illness has been diagnosed. The easiest time to discuss end- of-life plans is when everyone is healthy and well. To accommodate life changes and keep the family updated, consider hosting this family meeting regularly. Family reunions, holiday gatherings, and regular virtual meeting check-ins are great times to inform your family about your plans.
If you need further assistance or guidance, contact Prepare Your Affairs at email@example.com.
If you have a plan in place, look at your calendar during the next year and decide on a time when you can share your plan with your family
If you do not have a plan in place, find a time in the next year when you can have such a meeting and use that date as your goal date to have all your plans in place
Corey and Katie entered widowhood in 2016 after losing spouses to cancer. They met and connected in a widow/widower support group and later married. One of the principles they learned from their own experiences and those of other surviving spouses is that the more prepared a surviving spouse is on a financial, legal, emotional, and practical level, the better they will adjust to widowhood. They will maintain their independence and control of their assets and be freer to properly grieve and move forward in life. Conversely, those who are not prepared are more likely to have their lives flipped upside down. They may need to move and uproot kids because they can't afford the mortgage, rely on family or other charities to financially support them, and/or change jobs to allow them to better serve as a single parent. We hope to share what we've learned and help other families properly get their affairs in order and be prepared with confidence, peace of mind, and in control of their assets.