Unfortunately, these heavy pivot points are a big part of our lives.
So often we find ourselves caught up in the logistics, the black-and-white math of taxes and cash flow; this was a welcome zoom out onto the more important big picture. This addressed many of the non-financial aspects of dying that are important to try and navigate.
For those more to do list focused, there was plenty of what to do, and the often more interesting and valuable: what not to do.
Pat Miles was a famous Twin Cities newscaster and media personality you may still remember, so her tone and communication style are very clear and relatable. There are a few stories in the book that may not seem interesting to your particular situation with a friend or loved one, but there is almost certainly something in this for most people.
Some highlights I thought were worth sharing:
Lessons learned about the fog of grief
-Expect to feel numb
-Consider trying to avoid big decisions for a year
-Grieve your own way, don't rush through it or linger too long either
-There is a difference between grief and depression; learn it
-Consider engaging a professional and family and friends to support you
-Don't fight the new reality; it is what it is.
-Try to find some meaning in each day
-Be creative, try to find your new identity
Probate: Is not something to be afraid of if it is going to occur. It merely puts structure around the administration of someone's assets.
The average age of a widow in the US is only 55 years old. We never know; please have a plan in place.
Suicide is its own huge tragic subset of the subject of dying. Its impact on the family members left behind cannot be understated. Healing from a suicide or sudden unexpected death tends to take more time than a more typical death. Get professional help if possible.
Lessons learned about estate planning:
-Get things set up when you are healthy! Ensure you understand the plan as it is laid out with your attorney. You'd be surprised how many people later say they blindly signed for various reasons, avoidance, disinterest, etc. There are few things as irrevocable as an estate plan, so if it's important enough to do, try to engage so you understand the moving parts so you can understand it later too. We usually don't refresh estate plans more than every 10 years, so acquaint yourself with the plan if you aren't sure.
-Designate who is in charge of what, healthcare direct, finances, and a successor trustee
-Make a list of where all of your accounts are located and how to access them; keep them in a safe place, including passwords
-If you have business interests, make sure your documents clearly and precisely spell out what will happen if there is a death. Don't leave things to a handshake understanding. Spoiler alert, even though Pat's husband was a famous attorney, this was not all done.
If someone is dying, consider bringing in palliative or hospice care sooner rather than later. One of the common regrets is that higher levels of care were not brought in sooner. Many comforting things can potentially be done to help, but you have to ask to have them come.
Lessons learned about Death Doula's
I'm still unsure what a birth doula does, so this was a new one. They provide logistical, emotional, and spiritual support. They do not provide hands-on care like hospice but work in conjunction with them.
"Some of the best lessons in life are learned when life is hard."
Be a smart death consumer – are you extending life or suffering? Listen to the experts and react pragmatically with your loved one's wishes at heart, not emotionally, to the point where the actions might cause more suffering. This is more easily said than done. But going too far on painful life-extending measures is a common regret for loved ones.
Respect the dying person's wishes, trust your instincts about the right treatment, and regret is part of grief; expect it.
There are grief support resources, and I regularly hear about wonderful grief support groups held at local churches. Also, experts are available, like Kim, who started widow411.com, to share what she has learned. Some of her shared context is heartbreaking but familiar, like "Mom, I think you need to find a new doctor. The doctor you have isn't doing a very good job. If he's not fixing the brain tumor you need to find a doctor who will."
We also have put together a "death checklist" that might help a bit, if you'd like a copy, please let us know, or you can find it here.
We have a few copies of the book in our lobby if you are an existing client and would like a copy.
Thanks for taking a look,
Your Team at ISC Financial Advisors
Summary from Amazon:
For a culture that finds it difficult to talk about the end of life, Before All Is Said and Done is the roadmap we all need to navigate the practicalities of death while experiencing shock, loss, and grief. --Lee Woodruff, NYT Bestselling author
The notion of planning for one's death is intrinsically at odds with our human instinct to avoid considering our own mortality. Although we may contemplate the grief that our life's impermanence would cause to our loved ones, we seldom consider the myriad of emotional and legal issues that can arise afterward.
Before All Is Said and Done begins with the experience of author Pat Miles Zimmerman and her husband, Charles Bucky Zimmerman. Pat and Bucky were fully set for life but, regrettably, not set for death. After Bucky's death from an abrupt and short illness, Pat found herself with a plate full of unanticipated emotions, decisions, and legal problems.
But, as she spoke with other widows, she learned she was not alone in finding herself adrift after losing a spouse. The shock and grief that erupt from such a loss do not create a state of mind fit for navigating the numerous challenges that follow an unexpected death.
Pat Miles Zimmerman will prepare us for the oft-ignored problems that run in tandem with somber situations:
The shock of loss and what to expect
Facing a potential cognitive decline
Finding support and healthy grieving
Family disputes and blended family issues
Caring for yourself after the loss
Although we may initially shirk away from the notion of our life's transience, it is powerfully beneficial to ready ourselves and our loved ones for every stage of life -- and death. Before All Is Said and Done weaves the definitive path on how to be set f