Talking about death brings up feelings of anxiety, fear, awkwardness, and sadness,” Psychologist Corinne Sweet observes. “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 explained in our blog post last week, since we are estate planning attorneys, the topic of death is naturally included in any discussion. Taking a proactive approach, we view specifying one’s wishes, in terms of both funeral arrangements and disposition of property after death as a way of being kind to one’s survivors.
One of the reasons we refer to ourselves as elder law attorneys, though, is that many aspects of the estate planning process, however, are not about death at all, but about living. “Estate planning is not about death and dying, but about living, dreaming, creating and fulfilling an ideal of lasting social and personal impact,” according to American Benefactor Magazine (now part of Worth.com).”
“Estate planning is the process of documenting your wishes and how you want them to be carried out,” Jessica Moser of MetLife states. Yes, but documenting one’s wishes means first thinking about what those wishes are. Raymond Odom and Stacy Singer discuss the rule of “positive psychology in estate planning“, based on the notion that people can see as have opportunity and benefit to themselves. At its best, the estate planning process keeps people “in touch with what’s bigger than themselves.”
How might that play out in real life terms?
Business planning – The voice of experience is a powerful business teaching tool, and giving less-experienced leaders the opportunity to learn from you and understand the values behind the decisions you’ve made can be enormously fulfilling.
Charitable planning – Developing a philanthropic strategy means defining your values. Quite often, the multi-generational aspect of a donor-advised fund brings together grandparents, parents, and grandchildren in planning and executing “good works” based on shared goals.
Family relationships – :The key to avoiding post death dispute and bitterness among heirs is to hold family meetings ahead of time, communicating the parents’ intentions and the reasoning behind them. The real gains happen now, because sharing thoughts and concerns can heal rifts and enhance closeness.
At Geyer Law, we continue to observe that, while the “deadly side” of the estate planning process can help survivors, avoid disputes, save taxes, and fund worthy causes, it is the living side of the process that truly adds joy to the now.
– by Cara M. Chittenden, Associate Attorney with Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates