Surviving, then thriving
When facing the inevitable, it may help to take time to deal with the practical details beforehand
Few things are as sad and traumatic as the death of a loved one. From the loss itself, to the ways it can impact you physically and emotionally, to navigating the logistic and financial complexities that come with it, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And when it comes to talking about death, it can be as awkward beforehand as it is difficult afterward.
Talking with family along with friends and professional advisors, however, can be the key to preparing as much as you can and getting through the inevitable with as little upheaval as possible.
But just how do you approach a loved one with the subject of their death? And where do you go from there? Perhaps first consider how you would want everything handled, and then start the conversation from that perspective.
Start small, go slow
Like many endeavors, it’s often good to start small and be patient.
Put it on the radar
Rather than sitting down for a heavy talk, try simply mentioning the subject and see how it goes. You might even break the ice with gentle humor: “You know, at some point we could consider chatting about the big scary death thing.” Remember, this can be a series of conversations.
Meet them where they are
Death is emotional and its effects are complicated. When your loved one is ready to talk, get a sense of what’s top of mind for them. Is it unsolved relationship issues? Finances? Legal hurdles to address? Listen for cues, and you’ll find the appropriate starting point. From there, the rest of the dialogue should come naturally.
The gift of planning
Once the conversation has begun, everyone will soon start to feel more comfortable. And while certain topics can be difficult, it will be apparent that working through them and being on the same page will pay emotional dividends later on.
Once you’ve gotten a little more comfortable, encourage your loved one to share pertinent details with their family attorney, accountant and financial advisor who can all help fill in any blanks and help ensure as smooth a transition as possible when the time comes. From reviewing beneficiaries and titles to make sure they align with the will, to practical matters like having access to liquid cash, to making decisions without liquidating assets or waiting for life insurance proceeds, the details become easier with professional guidance.
Wills and trusts
Everyone needs a will to express the desired transfer of financial and tangible assets. If desired, encourage your loved one to work with professionals to help document their wishes accurately. For some, a trust may be appropriate to help dictate how assets are distributed, while keeping affairs confidential by avoiding probate.
Letters and proxies
Not everything is covered by a will, so ask your loved one if they’d like to write a personal letter to communicate any additional wishes. It can be a way for them to share their values, life lessons and faith with the next generation. It’s also important that they to designate a durable power of attorney – someone who can be trusted to handle financial business and make healthcare decisions on a person’s behalf.
This advanced care directive specifies how someone wants healthcare providers to handle their life-sustaining treatment and end-of-life care in the event they cannot do so themselves.
Funerals and obituaries
Everyone has a different idea of what they want when it comes to final respects. Some prefer celebrations, while others want solemn occasions or even creative gatherings. Regardless, listen to what your loved one desires and perhaps help research costs and make arrangements in advance.
Security codes and passwords
When someone passes away, survivors will need documented information to access or shut down a variety of personal and financial accounts.
Preparation helps, of course, but it’ll be important to surround yourself with love and support after the loss, too. Conventional wisdom suggests holding off on major decisions and taking at least a year to heal. However, certain practical matters will likely arise and need attention during this time. But with help and professional guidance, even tasks that seem daunting can be accomplished gracefully and peacefully.
Let people know
Make those you know aware of the loss. Reach out to family, friends and spiritual counselors for emotional support.
Confirm final arrangements
Contact the funeral home to confirm or clarify your loved one’s planned services. If you need clarification yourself, look to the will or personal letters for instructions.
It is recommended you get two to three dozen original copies of the death certificate from the county where the death occurred. One will be needed for every account relating to the estate, as well as one to forward the person’s mail from the post office.
Time off and childcare
If you’re able to, take time off work – many companies offer bereavement leave for the loss of close loved ones. Keep the little ones in mind, too, they’ll need support and possibly childcare as you deal with the details and services. Consider the needs of pets, too.
As a practical matter, although this may be a difficult discussion to have for all parties, the time to create a plan is now, while everyone has the opportunity to contribute fully to helping ease the painful transition in the future. As you work through your loved one’s wishes, consider your own planning needs. While planning for death and its aftermath can be somber and uncomfortable, it’s never too early to start talking.
Raymond James financial advisors do not render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.
Sources: Raymondjames.com; caregiverslibrary.org; nextavenue.org; psychcentral.com
Material created by Raymond James for use by its advisors. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James is not affiliated with any other entity listed herein. © 2018 Raymond James & Associates, Inc., member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC. © 2018 Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment products are: Not deposits, not FDIC/NCUA insured, not insured by any government agency, not bank guaranteed, subject to risk and may lose value.
Sandwiched – The Sandwich Generation
Caring for both children and aging parents is the reality for many. Thankfully, it’s manageable.
When it comes to the “Sandwich Generation,” much has changed since the phrase was coined by Dorothy Miller in 1981. Back then, it was mostly women in their 30s and 40s who were serving as primary caregivers for both their young children and aging parents. But today, both genders are sandwiched and the age range is from 40 to 59.
Even more revealing are examples of how being in the middle can affect lives, finances and the overall economy.
Another reason this role is getting harder as more and more people are living longer and more likely to experience aging related health issues that may require extra care. So for anyone stuck in the balancing act, a simple question arises. While you’re caring for your loved ones, who’s caring for you? Consider these tips:
Ask for help: Why put everything on your shoulders? You might be surprised how willing your family and friends are to lend a hand. Even assistance with simple tasks like errands, housework and food prep can provide needed relief.
Be good to your body: The more pressure, the more important it is to nourish your body in healthy fashion. Avoid junk food, and curtail alcohol and caffeine. Sneak as much sleep as you can. This will help reduce stress, anger and frustration.
Remember your mind: Prayer, meditation or quiet reflection can help you get through challenging days. Turn to online resources, libraries, therapists or a place of worship for resources to help you achieve balance and calm. Many counselors focus on anger, grief and even the stress of caregiving. It doesn’t hurt to have a brief phone consultation, and it might be a huge help.
Talk to your financial advisor: Before making a significant contribution to your loved one’s care, discuss financial strategies for navigating your caregiving role. There might even be available assistance for you and your family.
Sources: Raymondjames.com; huffingtonpost.com; kiplinger.com; pewsocialtrends.org
A brighter financial future
A recent survey revealed that more than 40% of new college students didn’t feel prepared to manage their money. Some were reluctant to even check their bank accounts for fear of what they might find. Clearly, some advice would be helpful.
Consider talking to your kids or grandkids sooner, rather than later, about basic financial management. These skills are much easier to learn before they become financially independent, as there are fewer financial factors to consider. Teaching them a few basic principles now will leave them better equipped to deal with more complicated matters down the road, such as mortgages, healthcare and tradeoffs that may need to be made in retirement.
Start with these five basics:
Material prepared by Raymond James for use by its advisors. Raymond James is not affiliated with any companies mentioned in this material.
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