Help Your Clients Answer This Question:
If You Died Tomorrow, What Message Would You Leave Behind?
The Bad News:
Most of us know a Last Will and Testament is a simple document which details one’s last wishes for their money, assets, and estate. The sad reality is that more than 70% of Americans who die today fail to leave behind as much as a Last Will and Testament for their family and loved ones. If you think about this fact, it is really hard to believe.
Even though we know that most of us would do anything for our families and loved ones, the reality is that only a tiny minority of Americans actually set aside the time necessary to work on documenting their last wishes.
The Worse News:
Although I wish the news could get better, here are some more facts that prove this actually gets even worse. How is that possible? Well, studies show that a far greater percentage of Americans today are actually “adding insult to injury” by failing to properly implement another key part of their financial plan, which is pre-arranging and documenting their End-of-Life plans and preferences.
Don’t Just Focus on the Good Things:
I think it would be fair to say that most of us sincerely care about our families and loved ones. Therefore, the only logical conclusion we can make here is that planning for death is something most people would rather overlook or ignore.
As financial advisors, our job should be to help our clients understand two very important things when it comes to their estate plan:
- The tremendous benefits achieved when they actually take the time to preplan their funeral and pre-pay their final expenses.
- The huge disadvantages associated with doing nothing, which includes the pain and damages they are leaving behind
Show Your Clients What the Wrong Message Sounds Like:
To prove my point, try this exercise to have with our clients. First, ask them to close their eyes. Then, ask them to pretend they died yesterday. Third, tell them that when they died, they unfortunately never documented or told any loved ones what they wanted for their End-of-Life plan.
With your clients still keeping their eyes closed, tell them you are going to read them a “hypothetical letter”. Tell them this is the last letter you left for your family and loved ones and, therefore, this is will very likely play a significant role in how you will be remembered:
“Dear Family and Loved Ones,
I have some important things I feel I need to share with you. As you know, even though we never really talked about it, I was well aware of the fact that someday I was going to die. Furthermore, I also knew that there was a chance that something unexpected could have happened to me at any time, causing me to die much sooner than either of us ever expected.
When I take a look back at how I prepared myself, my family, and my loved ones for this inevitable day, I cannot put into words how much I wish that I could turn back the clock and do things differently. Here is what I mean.
One of the first things I would do differently is work hard and smart to make sure that I could ease your pain in the event I should die. This would include making sure I worked as hard as possible to reduce or eliminate those awful emotional and financial decisions you are currently facing. I would go back and sacrifice whatever time, efforts, or money that was necessary to make sure that a situation like today would never place such a burden on you and the other people I love and care about so much.
Another thing I would do differently is be more proactive and plan ahead. Since life is filled with many forks in the road, in this case one of my options was to do nothing and hope I would live forever. However, now I know that because I simply sat back and wished for the best, this caused you to suffer through a tremendous amount of sadness, uncertainty, and tough choices. So looking back, I can now see that I missed out on one of my greatest opportunities to show you how much I truly care about you.
And finally, one other thing I would do differently is go back and learn from my mistakes. It hurts me so bad to know that as I leave you now, this whole experience has helped me to learn what the definition of “true love” really is. What I’ve learned through this experience is that “true love” is when you care more about the other person than you do about yourself. If only I had learned this great lesson sooner, I would have been inspired to be proactive and already have a plan in place that could help you make the most out of a difficult situation like this.
I can now say that I fully understand the meaning, purpose, and the multiple benefits people experience from leaving behind a comprehensive End-of-Life plan. I have watched and learned how hard it is for you to cope with grief and lossand all the work that is involved with it, and I completely understand how much stress it could eliminate, and how much it would mean to you.
Unfortunately, my time has come now, and I cannot turn back the clock…nor can I change the past. But I do know that even though these difficult times too shall pass, our love will live on forever.
So please know that as I look down upon you each and every day, I will always watch over you, keeping your best interests before mine, and praying for our strength to focus and remember how lucky we were to have shared all of those special moments together.”
We All Have Two Choices
For most people, talking about death or dying creates an uncomfortable situation. However, your loved ones will be far more uncomfortable if you leave them wondering things like “what to do now” and “what would you have wanted”.
My strong suggestion is to work with your clients today and help them create their End-of-Life plan now. I can assure your their family will be forever grateful to you, since you will be helping them avoid an experience that nobody wants…which is being forced to deal with grief and loss, emotional and financial stress, as well as difficult decisions and uncertainties.
Christopher P. Hill, Founder