Family: What Does It Mean to You?
Family. The people who you love unconditionally. The people you’d do anything for.
At bare minimum, most of us work to provide food, water, shelter, and safety for our loved ones, but many of us go to extreme lengths to ensure their needs are satisfied. We work to instill our kids with self-esteem, confidence, respect, and good morals. We encourage them to find pursuits that fulfill their potential and unique skill set. And we’d go to the ends of the earth to do it.
Let’s look at Mark and Danielle. They didn’t understand what it meant to give all of themselves to something until their kids were born. It started like it does for all new parents, with a lot of lost sleep and irritability intermingled with joy and love as they dealt with frequent feedings, diaper changes, and seemingly constant crying. As their kids grew up, what used to be Mark and Danielle’s free time turned into playtime, and eventually chauffeur-time. Their evenings were spent helping with homework and baking for fundraisers. They pushed off romantic vacations to put more money into college funds and take family trips. More than once they had to take off work to defend one of their kids to the principal. And Mark even had a few unpleasant nights of driving drunk teens home when his oldest took Mark’s advice and called after drinking too much at a party.
After they were grown, Mark and Danielle happily helped out with loans when their children needed money and advice when they felt lost and in need of help. They reached out to their friends and coworkers to help the kids make connections and get better jobs – even though the kids sometimes acted put-upon and annoyed at this interference. And when grandchildren entered into the picture, they were the first ones volunteering to babysit (and no one could stop them from buying clothes and toys!).
Through it all, they tried their hardest to be the best possible parents they could for their kids, even if it meant saying no and weathering the kind of anger and vitriol that only children can muster up! They knew that sometimes doing what was right for their kids meant causing pain and heartache for themselves, but that, in the end, it would help them to create happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults.
Mark and Danielle were also smart about their money, and they instilled that same virtue in their children, teaching them early about investing, saving, and budgeting. Mark would even have impromptu financial lessons with his kids from time to time where they spoke about how to invest and why he was doing it. Whenever they complained about not getting to do something because there wasn’t enough money, he would bring up the investments and tell them “The money we set aside today is insurance for your future. One day, it’s all going to be yours.”
Unfortunately, while Mark and Danielle were busy trying to give everything to their children, there was one thing they never got around to doing – planning their estate. They always talked about doing making sure their house was in order during life and after they pass, but there never seemed to be enough time with everything else going on. And then all their time was taken from them when they were killed together in a tragic accident. The kids, naturally, were devastated, but the aftermath was even worse. It wasn’t about property, it was about the process.
Anyone who knew Mark and Danielle could have told you that they would have wanted to leave everything to their kids in a seamless and smooth manner, but since there was no official paperwork telling anyone what to do when they passed away, divvying up their estate was a long, drawn-out legal mess. They wanted to give their kids everything, but never intended to leave behind a painful, ongoing reminder that they were gone. Going through probate and trying to determine what their parents wanted caused all kinds of arguments between their children and ended up driving them apart at a time when they most needed to be together as a family.
Why do so many of us do things like this? Why spend a lifetime working for your family and giving them everything only to leave a mess behind for them to clean up after you pass?
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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