How To Ensure Your Estate is Prepared Properly

My husband died in February 2007. Then my dear mother passed a month later.

I deeply miss their physical presence, but their spirits and love will always be with me. I’m grateful for my faith in God, along with friends, family, and clients who offered loving support during that transition time.

Yes, managing grief at the death of a loved one is difficult. You may have experienced a similar intense heartache like mine when your husband died.

As the executor of my husband’s and my mother’s wills, I had two estates to settle. That was pretty straightforward work, although time consuming. They both did almost everything right in terms of their end-of-life planning.

Writing a will that clearly explains your final wishes is a lasting gift for those you leave behind. What a meaningful bequest for your loved ones! It could be called “tying up the loose ends of our lives.” In addition to a will, you may also have a trust. Have you completed a living will and appointed a health-care advocate to make decisions about your treatment if you have a terminal illness? Have you given durable power of attorney to someone you trust who would help with financial decisions if necessary? If you have young children, have you made provisions for their care if you die prematurely? Left undone, incomplete estate plans may cause pain, guilt, sorrow, and regret for family members. That’s on top of the grief they feel. Ouch!

It’s been said that half of all lawyers die with unfinished estate plans. That’s understandable. Preparing for one’s death demands that you confront a toxic mix of chaotic emotions and enervating details.

As you think about your own end-of-life plans, are all of your loose ends tied up? Doing so is a great final gift for those you care for. And that includes telling people you love them—today. Waiting until sometime in the future may be too late.

About the author

Kathleen Rehl, Ph.D., CFP®

Kathleen M. Rehl, Ph.D., Certified Financial Planner® has assisted individuals with life-centered, comprehensive financial planning in her “fee-only” practice at Rehl Financial Advisors since 1996. She is a Registered Investment Advisor, serving as a trusted guide and fiduciary.

Frequently invited to speak on the topic of widows and their financial issues at national and regional events, Kathleen has also been published in many sources and quoted in publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Money, and Consumer Reports. She was named as one of the country’s 100 great financial planners by Mutual Funds magazine.

Kathleen’s world changed forever when her husband and business partner died of cancer in 2007. Then five weeks later her widowed mother also passed. It was from her personal grief experiences that Kathleen’s life purpose evolved—helping other widows to be more self-confident, knowledgeable and secure about their money matters. She is passionate about empowering her “widowed sisters” to take control of their financial future.

Her loss motivated Kathleen to publish Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows. This guidebook helps widows stabilize their new financial situation, avoid making big mistakes and make progress in their changed life. New widows, especially, are in such a fragile emotional state, vulnerable to acting on inaccurate, or even worse, unethical advice provided by untrustworthy sources. She presents information in an easy-to-understand manner, along with issues of the heart, to help widows face their very different life ahead. This unique book includes a beautiful format, helping to heal a woman's soul while focusing on money issues.

The March 2011 issue of "Your Guide to a Richer Retirement," a newsletter produced by Kiplinger's Retirement Report, recommends Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows. U.S. News and World Report also featured the book in a special story.

Widows transitioning into their new financial life may use this book on their own or with the guidance of a professional. It may be given as a gift to a family member or friend who is widowed. Some organizations using the guidebook are: many U.S. Army posts; the national ELCA Foundation; hospice services; community support groups; funeral homes and congregations.

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  • Kathleen, we’ve been friends from the very first time you attended a NAPFA conference, so I’ve had reason to follow your career.

    I’m convinced you have set the bar for the rest of us. You are the advisor and friend we ought to strive to be.

    I hope you live healthy and happily. I hope you celebrate your 110th birthday after still another uninterrupted year as a full-time advisor. Your work is your passion, I know, and its own reward. How very fortunate you are! How very fortunate we and your clients are to have you as a friend!

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