How do we find the value of a life?
This is a common question in my line of work as a financial advisor, but I recently experienced this in my own life with the loss of my father-in-law. I was a personal witness to the other side of the table.
Immediately after my father-in-law passed, the hospital room was overwhelmed with silence. It was so loud — in its own, very quiet way. As if you could hear a vacuum in the void of our lives. We sat in that silence weeping and praying. As our lives stood still in that moment, we began to talk about memories and thoughts of the last couple of hours. We sat there to capture that moment and to honor a great man.
Then, just as our lives stopped, they started again, with what felt like a greater velocity as we started to plan the next steps that were required, both financial and otherwise. My in-laws had done a wonderful job planning by preparing their legal documents, accounts, and arrangements to ensure there would be no question of their wishes.
The unseen expense of losing a loved one
However — even with all that planning — life finds a way to sneak up on you. From the planning of his memorial to the day-to-day needs, the weight of every decision seemed amplified. The week of his passing, their house showed the absence of its handyman. The toilet broke, the boat’s fuel sensor malfunctioned, and the yard was in desperate need of attention. We were one set of (very skilled) hands short. We witnessed firsthand the day-to-day expense tied to the cost of serving his memory well.
Financial dependency is a risk
This is a risk we live under in this life — creating a dependency. This affects parents that provide for dependent children, to retirees that depend on each other’s income. Dependency is not easy to lose in the moment of death, no matter the situation. We do not create it overnight, and it is not easily replaced. How can you help alleviate this in your own life?
Mitigating dependency with strong financial planning
A strong strategy for your — and your family’s – financial future can help to mitigate this risk. A financial advisor can help you. Work with that person to assess your areas of risk and create a long term plan.
- Review life Insurance: Have your advisor review your life insurance and make sure the financial benefits that it provides will meet your needs. Life insurance is an easy way to cover your income, which could be your most valued asset.
- Plan the funeral: Plan carefully and clearly communicate your wishes, so others do not have to make difficult decisions. A person’s wishes are so important, even after they can no longer speak themselves.
- Sort out your legalities: Meet with an attorney to review the needed legal documents so that you and your family are not lost in the throes of legality. This is the last thing that anyone wants to face in the wake of losing a loved one.
- Adjust your plan as life goes on: When all of this is complete, do not stop. Your life will change, and your plan needs to follow.
The benefits of planning for death
So, what’s the reward in all of this? It will feel difficult at times to plan for this eventual reality we all face, but its rewards are many.
When the inevitable moment arrives, your family will be allowed time to grieve with dignity. Family and property will not be left in disrepair. Lives can learn to be whole after being dismantled. Our communities would be burdened with love and not taxed with monetary support. That the generosity that you have shown towards family and the community will be a legacy left many years after your passing.