“It’s touchy,” Nathan Place admits, referring in Financial Planning Magazine to the question, “How long do you expect to live?” The answer, he explains, plays a key role in retirement planning, since “the longer you live, the more savings you’ll need to finance your life.” Even just broaching the subject of death improves a client’s ability to plan, and it’s sobering for clients to realize that half the people their age are likely to live longer than the number of years shown on the life expectancy charts. “Lifespan is at the heart of every financial plan, and a misstep could mean the difference between clients’ financial security and running well short of money in retirement,” Greg Lacurci writes in Investment News.
Talking about death brings up feelings of anxiety, fear, awkwardness, and sadness,” psychologist Corinne Sweet agrees. “We tend to pretend, as a culture, that it’s not going to happen. It’s incredibly important, Sweet stresses, for all generations to talk about death – ahead of time – so that feelings can be faced, and relationships set straight.”
As estate planning attorneys, needless to say, death needs to be on our discussion agenda. We try to help Geyer Law clients take a proactive approach to estate planning as a path to being kind to one’s survivors.. We see the process as helping clients prepare for the time when they will no longer be there to care for their loved ones. Showing kindness towards your survivors, we suggest, might take the form of drafting a letter telling them where to find your papers and exactly what you want to have happen both upon death and in the event of an accident or illness where you are unable to communicate.
Even when helping younger clients in the formation of a new business, talking about death is unavoidable. “If something were to happen to you suddenly, what systems will you have in place to ensure the business can continue under someone else’s leadership (either temporarily or permanently?).
As Atul Gawande wrote in the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,
“Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things.”
– by Cara M. Chittenden, Associate Attorney with Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates