Death is often a taboo topic. There is a human, emotional, tendency to avoid thinking about our eventual passing. In our rational minds, however, we know that avoidance of this thought does not equal the avoidance of its occurrence. We are all on the same journey when it comes to the end result. Finding ways to make peace with this reality involves discovering some positive aspects which underlie the estate planning process. Here are four perspectives designed to help you to embrace the beauty that lies in actively preparing for your departure from this life.
While we are busy implementing our daily plans and going about our lives, it is not always clear to others that we are concerned with those outside of our immediate circle. Planning for the distribution of our estate creates the conditions for communicating with our loved ones – that we have given extensive thought to their well-being, and have designed our final arrangements in a way that takes their extended comfort into consideration. Estate planning presents the opportunity to let our loved ones know that we are going to continue to care for them after we are gone.
This demonstration of care doesn’t end with letting our loved ones know what we intend to pass on to them in material goods. The fact that we are planning ahead of time for the logistics of what needs to occur upon our passing, is also giving those who remain the gift of decreased stress. A well-planned estate means that there will be less pressure placed upon our executors or trustees, as there will be less need (if any) for the court to make determinations during probate. A clear outline of our last wishes and intentions within our plan can also reduce – or even eliminate – the possibility of ugly disputes and family fights over distributions of our assets.
There is no larger conduit of emotion than that which surrounds the idea of death. Quite often, we take those who are around us for granted, acting as if they will always be there. Beginning to speak with our loved ones about the reality of our passing can open up doors to deeper communication, and can often illuminate perspectives and emotions which have, thus far, remained buried under the surface of our daily interactions.
How many times have we heard people say that they wish they would have talked more with their loved ones before their passing? Or, maybe you, yourself, can recall the feeling of regret that accompanies not hearing more of a grandparent’s story, or of not speaking with an aunt for years before her death. Actively planning for our estate allows us the window of opportunity to make those connections, share those conversations, and work to ensure that there are no regretsassociated with our end of life.
If there are particularly difficult family dynamics at play during this time of contact, consider engaging the support of a family therapist. A therapist with special training can assist you and your loved ones in healing old wounds and correcting misunderstandings during this sensitive time. The peace that can come from resolving these issues is priceless.
Many of us have worked very hard to improve our lives – and the lives of those around us – in some way. It may be that we have invested our money with more wisdom than our ancestors. It’s possible that we have instituted a culture of education that was not present before our generation. It could be that we have broken some type of destructive cycle that plagued our family name, prior to us stopping it. It might even be that we have continued to be faithful and noble, carrying on the tradition of kindness and goodwill for which our family is known. Whatever the case, we have made an impact on this world.
Planning for our estate is a way to make sure that our perspectives on what is important remain after we have departed. The careful consideration required to craft a successful future plan for our assets – whether they be monetary or otherwise – allows the space for taking stock of whatever it is that we want most to convey to others about the meaning of life. It is an opportunity to extend our values through the distribution of our wisdom, love, and possessions. This ongoing transmission of our values can be present in the way we set up our trust funds, in the items that we choose to give to specific loved ones, and even in the messages that we leave in writing our own eulogy.
With all of the above discussion of how planning for our death can benefit others, it is helpful to remember that the process can be therapeutic for ourselves as well. Many of us don’t realize what it is that we have worked so hard to accomplish in life. Taking stock of what we intend to leave for others can be an enlightening experience, resulting in our being able to take a moment to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.
Estate planning can also provide the ability to find peace of mind about the final resting place of our physical remains. Many people have strong feelings about the idea of what will happen to us once we are no longer present in spirit. Do we want our loved ones to have one last glimpse of our body, neatly arranged for the funeral service? Do we abhor the idea of being interred, and prefer cremation? Do we want our memorial service to be a time of sorrow, or a time of celebration? All these types of plans for our final rest can be made while creating our end-of-life directives,providing us with peace of mind that our wishes will be carried out after we are no longer here to ensure they are honored.
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