Managing your own finances can be tough. If you had to explain the ins and outs of those finances to another person right now, you might both find yourselves scratching your heads trying to keep things straight. So imagine how difficult it would be if you became the executor of someone else’s estate – with no guidance whatsoever.
Since we will not live long enough to make all of life’s mistakes, it can be helpful to learn from the mistakes of others. In this spirit, you should take a read through a recent autobiographical article in Forbes titled “What My Dad's Death Taught Me About Money.”
As you read this article, you’ll see that there are many lessons to be learned from the experiences of the author, an only child, in her role as executor of her father’s estate. Unfortunately, the author had to learn these lessons the hard way. When her father, a long-time entrepreneur and business owner, died suddenly without a will, she was left to pick up the pieces with no guidance or “road map” of any kind.
Cleaning up the mess took years from start to finish, and consumed almost 100% of her time for a whole year (she took freelance work assignments while handling the estate probate process full-time). It also required the involvement – and payment – of countless lawyers and other professionals in several states. The worst part of the author’s story is that her life was turned upside down without unnecessarily – a result her father definitely would not have wanted if he had taken the time to think about it.
I highly recommend reading the full article, but for those of you short on time here are the essential takeaways:
Lesson #1: Everyone Should Have an Estate Plan … or at Least a Will. Without a plan in place, and a means to carry out that plan, the grieving loved ones you leave behind will be forced to stumble their way through the estate administration process “blind.” Not only will they be under an incredible amount of stress trying to figure everything out, but they will end up spending far more on attorneys and other professional helpers than it would have taken to put a plan in place ahead of time. A Will is the first step and an absolute necessity, but a more detailed plan will make an otherwise complicated and often wrenching process a lot easier to get through.
Lesson #2: Adequate Medical Insurance is a Must. The author’s father had allowed his medical insurance to lapse about a year before his fatal brain hemorrhage at the age of 54. Why? Because he was starting a new company, was in relatively good health, and thought the expense could be eliminated for a short period of time. He clearly couldn’t have predicted that an unexpected medical catastrophe would land him in the intensive care unit, racking up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars – dollars that could have gone to his family instead of the hospital.
Lesson #3: No, You Really Can’t Take it With You, So Be Sure To Stop and Smell the Roses Every Once in a While. The one lesson that really resonated with me in this story is that no matter how hard you’re working to ensure your financial future, you’ve got to remember not to leave everything to the future. Work hard, but not to the exclusion of everyone and everything in your life now. While it’s great to be able to leave your loved ones money when you’re gone, all the money in the world can’t make up for missed quality time together.
One of the best and most lasting gifts you can leave your loved ones is a well-planned and organized estate. To begin the process of creating your own estate plan or to schedule a complimentary estate planning consultation, contact us at Peak Legal Group.
Reference: Forbes (April 19, 2013) “What My Dad's Death Taught Me About Money”