On a beautiful late spring afternoon, fifty years ago, two young women, Dottie and Marge, graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young women. Both were very giving, always putting others before themselves, and anxious to make a positive difference in the world.
Recently, both women were buried at the local cemetery following a beautiful ceremony attended by many friends and loved ones.
Both women had been very much alike. Both had been happily married for many years but a widow later in life. Both had four grown children and many grandchildren.
But there was a difference. Dottie had a well-crafted and written Family Succession Plan in place for herself and her loved ones that spelled out exactly what her children needed to do and how her family would inherit her assets.
On the other hand, Marge couldn’t be bothered with estate planning. It was too expensive and time consuming to put together and frankly, she didn’t like thinking about such unpleasant thoughts such as death. She decided to let her children sort it all out on their own.
Not long after the funeral, while still grieving, the children of both Dottie & Marge were tasked with cleaning up the affairs of their mother.
Although sad about losing their mother, Dottie’s children were thankful their mother had the foresight to begin decluttering and tidying up her affairs before her passing. Dottie had organized her financial paperwork, confirmed her beneficiaries, met with her attorney to ensure her estate plan was current and her trust properly funded, and even began decluttering forty years worth of “stuff” that had accumulated over the decades. Dottie even completed an estate organizational workbook leaving behind a “written roadmap” for her children to follow.
Marge’s affairs, on her other hand, created a huge mess and hardship for her children. After consulting an attorney, Marge’s children discovered that Marge’s estate would have to be probated, necesitating huge legal fees and even time delays before Marge’s house could be sold. The children began fighting amongst themselves on who should be in charge. They also had the daunting task of sorting through decades worth of old paperwork that was shoved into boxes and drawers throughout the house. The probate would take up to a year or longer to sort out.
What Made the Difference?
So what made the difference in the respective experiences of Marge’s and Dottie’s children after they died?
A well-crafted, comprehensive, and written Estate Plan made all the difference to Dottie’s children to make their lives easier during a difficult time. Dottie’s children had the “luxury” to grieve for their mother and to remember her kind spirit and reminisce about all of the good memories they had of their mother.
Although they loved their mother, Marge’s children couldn’t help but begin feeling a bit resentful of the “mess” they were left to clean up following their mom’s passing. They learned from the attorney that Marge could have made some simple plans that would’ve saved them thousands of dollars in legal fees, time, and family disputes. But alas, Marge chose not to do any planning at all and let her children deal with the aftermath because she didn’t want to deal with it herself.
What Kind of Legacy Will You Leave Behind?
Although the names have been changed, the women and families depicted in this story are real and their stories are not uncommon.
I work with families everyday in pre-planning to ensure that the lives of the people my client loves the most are made as simple as possible following their death. And I also work with families following the death of a loved one like Marge to clean up that person’s affairs as best we can.
We all strive to leave a loving, lasting footprint behind of our lives by choosing how we live our life in the moment.
However, statistically, most women do not think about the legacy they will leave behind with their estate pre-planning, or lack thereof.
Remember, it is our loved ones who will have to live with the plans we chose to make, or not make, for their benefit when we had the opportunity to do so.
We don’t plan for ourselves because it’s fun to think about and do.
We plan because we love our family.
An Investment in Success
August is What Will Be Your Legacy month. The final legacy we can leave our children is the Family Succession Plan we put into place for their benefit.
So I ask you, what kind of final legacy will you be leaving your family one day?
Will your children be thanking you like Dottie’s children?
Or will your children be too busy cleaning up your affairs to properly grieve like Marge’s children?
The choice is yours.
Want to Learn How To Get Started in Leaving a Positive Legacy for Your Children?
Download my FREE no-obligation book: Wise Women Protect their Assets from www.PinkLawyerBook.com to learn more.