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Living a Better Life (Hint: Be Prepared for Life’s Uncertanties)

Dealing with loss is difficult, particularly when it's unexpected. Take your time to carefully consider next steps.

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You know my friend Russ. You don’t know him personally (that’s not even his real name). But you know a friend like Russ. A friendship that happens only once, maybe twice in a lifetime. 

My friend Russ. Honest. Accepting. Fun. Trusting. Loyal. 

Russ. Father of two teen boys, a dedicated and loving husband, restaurant owner. A shining light in the community. 

Russ died suddenly at 56 on a trip to the mountains.

Life’s Uncertainties

I share this story to help you understand that being prepared to handle life’s uncertainties, however difficult they may be to talk about, is part of living a better life.

It may be hard to think about money after a sudden loss of this kind, yet financial decisions must be made that impact the present and the future. Unfortunately, many people make bad financial choices when they are grieving. We can be overwhelmed by powerful emotions as we grieve. Careful and informed decisions made with a team of professionals ensure better results—and living a better life.  

Getting Ready

Gathering necessary documents is the first step in moving forward financially following the sudden loss of a loved one. This part of the process can be demanding physically and emotionally. Bring in a family member or close friend for help and support getting documents together.

Documents typically needed to begin the process:

  • Estate planning documents such as wills or trusts
  • Banking and brokerage statements
  • Real estate deeds 
  • Copy of the death certificate 
  • List of assets and liabilities
  • Retirement accounts 
  • Life insurance policies
  • Health insurance policies

Once the documents are gathered, it’s time to assemble the team of professionals.

Assemble the Team

Most people ordinarily have one-on-one meetings with their accountant, financial planner, or attorney. But after a loss, it requires the coordinated efforts of a team to address immediate and long-term financial needs and concerns. There are decisions to make about taxes, healthcare, real estate, investments, and insurance, among others. A team of professionals is likely to bring in their experience with clients that have lost a loved one.  

At this stage, select a team member to serve as a leader. A team leader is an efficient way to coordinate the other team members’ actions and bring them together. It’s also much easier to have a go-to team leader than having to reach all of the separate team members whenever needed.

Let the Team Work

Grieving is a unique experience for each of us—there is no rulebook, no standard timeframe, no one-size-fits-all checklist. The time someone needs to grieve is influenced by their culture, emotions, and support system. A team of financial professionals may become part of the emotional support system that helps move through the grieving process. They can ease one’s mind by providing the comfort of knowing a team is working to produce the best clients’ outcomes. 

When a loved one passes suddenly, assemble the team of professionals, provide the information they need, and let them do their work. Grieving family members can focus on healing and moving forward in a healthy manner. 

Be Prepared for Life’s Uncertainties

We are living longer lives. We are the fortunate beneficiaries of advances in medical care and understanding healthy living. Life expectancy in the US increased ten years to an average of 79 between 1960 and 2017. Women are consistently living longer, outliving men by an average of five years as of 2017.  

One of the best things to do is be prepared for life’s uncertainties with a clearly written plan for you and your family’s financial affairs. Plan now for your specific financial situation and wishes with a team of trusted, qualified professionals. Sound planning is an improvement in your financial health. And that’s living a better life. 

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