The Greatest Gift You Can Give A Loved One (No, it is not love)
If you were to die suddenly and unexpectedly, would your loved one(s) know how to handle your estate? Losing a loved one is one of the greatest stresses we have. Without a will or trust in place, without written instructions of what to do and how to handle the estate, this can compound the stress that the surviving spouse has to deal with in the mist of their grief.
I had a client that was dying of cancer. He thought that if he prepared his wife for his inevitable death, that this would be a signal to the Universe that he had given up and was ready to die. So, he did not do anything to prepare her for what she would face once he had died.
He did die and she had no clue how to handle the estate. He had taken care of all the financial obligations. She didn’t know if she should bury him or cremated him. She had no idea who had the mortgage on their home, the amount, or how to pay the mortgage. She had no idea of the monthly expenses or how to pay them. She had no idea what he or they owned, what obligations he or they had, where the money was, how to access the money. She had no idea if he had a life insurance policy.
She called me 6 months after her husband had died. She wanted to work on her anger at her husband for not preparing her for his demise. Not only did he not prepare her, he didn’t have a will or trust (this was in the days before trusts were popular.) Opening mail was traumatic (in the days before computers, email, and online notifications). Bills, bank statements, notifications, end of the year statements were arriving. She had no clue if they were legit and if they were, what to do about them.
She had hired an attorney to help her sort through everything but didn’t know if he was trustworthy. She was so overwhelmed with sorting out their obligations that after 6 months she was still traumatized.
The greatest gift you can give to a loved one is to
- Sit down with each other and have a frank and practical conversation about your possible death,
- to have a will or trust in place,
- and instructions of what your loved one will need to do about your death.
Also, in your car, in your wallet, and on your cell phone have ICE – In Case of Emergency and list whom needs to be notified in the event of an accident or your death.
If your loved one died, would you know what to do? Do you know if there is a will or a trust in place? Your life has just changed forever. You are grieving. Yet, life goes on. Bills still need to be paid. Groceries still have to be purchased to restock the refrigerator and cupboards and gas put into the vehicle. Do you know if you are a signer on the checking account? Do you know who the attorney is that set up the will or trust? Do you know who the executor of the will/trust is? Do you know where to find the will/trust?
The lost of a loved one is the most stressful event that will happen in our lives. Death is inevitable. Preparing your loved one is not a signal to the Universe that you are ready to or preparing for death. It is the greatest gift you can give to your loved one is not to compound their stress in a time of grief and upheaval.
When my Dad died, he had a list of what he owned, whom was to receive the item, a list of the life insurance policies, the type of funeral he wanted, people to notify, list of bank accounts…everything we needed to close out the estate. Each of us children already had a copy of the trust and were co-executors. It made closing out the estate much easier when we knew where to find what we needed.
@ Tessa Cason, 2022.
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