Death is never a pleasant topic to discuss. Facing one’s own mortality is always difficult, and our minds seek to find ways to ignore our vulnerability to death, yet the vulnerability is always present. Often times, attorneys will ask clients questions only about the client’s family, assets, debts, and how they want the property distributed to the family members. I am guilty of this approach as well. However, I find a great deal of importance to move beyond these questions. Often times, it is important to consider deeply our own mortality. Doing so not only helps one make a better estate plan, but often reveals areas in our lives with which we are unhappy and that we might like to change. Below are some questions to consider and to discuss when preparing your estate plan:
1. What do you believe will happen to you when you die? If you died today, would you be at peace in how you have lived your life?
2. Are you currently happy with your life? Are there changes that you would like to your life to improve the quality of your life? Are there things that you want to do, but have not yet accomplished? What do you need to do to reach these goals before your death?
3. What do you want your family and close friends to remember about you after your death? What are you doing currently to invest in the lives of your family and friends? Are you neglecting relationships that you need to reinvest in? What competes for your time and attention causing you to neglect important relationships? Do your relationships have the depth that you would like for them to have, or are they superficial? What can be done to change that?
4. What do you want your funeral/memorial service to look like? What do you want to happen to your body after your death?
5. Do you want to leave your family members and close friends a personal message after your death? What do want them to know and hear from you after your death? Have you written these messages down?
6. What are your top concerns regarding your family after your death? Are they prepared financially for this event? Do they have a network of close friends to provide emotional support? Are there other concerns you may have about your family? What can you do now to better prepare for your death to address these concerns?
These are a few of the questions I have begun asking clients when we discuss their estate planning. Estate planning includes far more than preparing a trust or a will. While that is a major part of it, identifying, discussing, and addressing concerns that may be uncovered in answering the above questions are as, if not more, important as merely disposing of one’s property after death.