BY: BYRON MOORE, CFP®
posted June 25, 2018
“What was he thinking?” she asked, taking a deep breath and pausing to hold back the tears.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Her husband had started his business from scratch, striking out on his own when he was just 32. They worked as a team to raise a family and start a business. It was so tight in those early years, but all she could remember were the good times.
Within ten years he was hiring more staff and opening a second location to serve the needs of a growing clientele. He was a supplier to a specialty niche in his industry and he became known for his responsiveness and customer service.
For years the business had been successful, as far as she knew. There was always enough money and even though his travel schedule was at times demanding, he seemed to strike a balance between hard work and time with her.
They were beginning to travel more. Next year, they would go to Europe, he promised.
And just like that, he was gone.
In the days that followed his death, she searched around the house for anything that would give her some idea where his will was. She never found one.
His office manager and number one salesman both told her they had never discussed who would take over if he was gone. He had said over and over he had no intention of ever selling. He wanted to die in the saddle, she said.
He got his wish.
She came to realize that the man who had worked and planned so carefully in life had mostly ignored the possibility he might not live forever.
He had no will. There was life insurance, but what might have sounded like a huge sum before his death turned out to be far too little. And now his business was falling apart one departing employee after another as no plans for management succession or financial stability had been made. His bank was clearly nervous.
In this and too many other situations, I’ve seen grief turn to confusion and confusion turn to anger and anger turn to resignation and depression. The death of a loved one or significant person (like a business owner) is hard enough. But when the realization hits that for whatever reason, no provision was made for life after they were gone, another kind of grief sets in.
For some, that is a gut punch from which they never recover.
But I’ve also seen the story end in a very different way.
I’ve had the privilege of saying to a widow, “He took care of you. It is so obvious that he loved you.”
I’ve seen the pride in an adult child’s tear-filled eyes when they realized that their now-deceased parent loved them enough to plan carefully for the family business’ succession.
I’ve seen the legacy of a charitable gift shine in the eyes of an underprivileged child who could go to summer camp because of a thoughtful, generous planned gift.
It takes one level of financial maturity to be responsible and plan for your own future. That is certainly laudable and worthy of respect.
But it takes a whole other level of financial maturity…I’ll call it generosity…to plan for the future of others once you are gone.
The tools aren’t sexy or exciting – wills, succession plans, life insurance, trusts…but their legacy can be life-changing.
Please don’t leave it to those left behind to wonder what you were thinking.
Show them exactly what you were thinking by thinking…and acting…before you’re gone.
You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get a copy of my “What Were You Thinking?” checklist. It’s free for the asking.
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