Like many others in my generation, I came to the end of a long, successful career (for me, it was in healthcare administration) and thought “Okay, now what?” My financial advisor told me that I had prepared myself well enough so that I could retire, but that’s not what I wanted at least not in the traditional sense of retirement. I had never counted down the days until I could stop in my work life, since I always had the freedom and flexibility that allowed me to “enjoy” my work and not feel trapped in my career. I felt that I could continue to work part time for many years to come, but what would I do?
As I looked at my life and work experiences, I saw that the common thread running through both was organization. I loved creating order from chaos; it’s second nature to me. And in recent years, I had applied this skill many times to the estates of family members and friends who either were looking ahead to the end of their lives or who had recently died. Combining my organizing talent with my ability to provide assistance and guidance during times of fear, uncertainty, confusion and upheaval, I found success in a new area where I could be of great service to others. I found that I had a new purpose and a new business: Estate Organizing and Management.
Bev and Patricia have kindly invited me to share some of my thoughts and recommendations on the subject of organizing and managing your estate. I hope it will help you frame your issues in this area.
1) Do you have a complete accounting of what you own? A plan to maximize and safeguard it? Arrangements for what happens to it when you die?
How about a written guardianship plan for your child or children if something happens to you? Or a Will that expresses your final wishes? Or a Trust to hold and distribute your property without your survivors having to go to court to do this?
Who needs these things? EVERYONE! We spend so much of our lives accumulating material wealth, but so many people don’t have the time or energy or tools to organize and plan and document it. Then either they run out of time to do it or they die and it’s too late to do it. Their survivors end up with less estate and more chaos. That’s not what you want, so take action now.
If you find that you can’t do it – or don’t want to do it alone – get help! Contact an estate attorney, a CPA or someone like me. The Life Planning Network or State Bar Association can provide referrals, or if you prefer a do-it-yourself option, Nolo Press provides helpful information.
2) When should you do this? It’s best to organize and prepare now (with a plan to update at pre-set intervals), as it not only helps you see what you have but it also gives the insight and opportunity to determine how long it might last, decide what you need to change to achieve your goals, plan how to disburse your possessions, etc. Document your estate and express yourself now so that the person or people you choose to handle it after you are gone, will be able to step in and carry forward with the clearest understanding possible
3) What happens when people don’t organize their affairs? Many people think about these things but never get started or they start but don’t finish because the task feels overwhelming or frightening. Or maybe they don’t want to face the inevitability of death. Or maybe they don’t want to face family conflicts over possessions.
It’s far too often the case that people die and it’s left to family members and/or friends to sort out their affairs (with the help of people like me). Wouldn’t you like for them to mourn your loss rather than sort out your personal affairs? Wouldn’t you like for them to be grateful that you sat down and planned in advance? Wouldn’t you like to have peace of mind that your affairs are in order? YES!
4) “When I do all of this, can I just file these items away and not think about it anymore?!” NO! This is an ongoing process. As your life changes, your estate and your wishes change, but once the basic documentation is there it’s usually just a matter of periodic updating to make sure that your wishes and desires are clear. Do you still want to give that rug to Uncle Fred? Do you still want leave a generous gift to that foundation? Did you find a new sweetie and want to remember him/her in a special way? Well these things won’t happen unless you clearly express your wishes and desires!
5) Also, as you undertake this process, think about all the people it will impact and try to bring them into the conversation. And be sure to ask them what they’re doing to protect themselves and the ones they love (including you!). Spread the word on how important it is to PROTECT your estate and PLAN for what happens to it and ACT to make certain that your survivors will know what you want.
A quote from Ben Franklin is appropriate here: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” And the Boy Scout Motto gives us the following advice: “Be Prepared.” If you agree with Ben, then be like a Boy Scout and don’t leave your estate to chance. Take steps to protect it and your heirs today (and don’t be shy about asking for help!).
David Gill Bio
While spending his professional career managing businesses for himself and others, David has also organized, managed and distributed the personal estates of family and friends. In all these situations, he found great satisfaction and success working with people on personal issues and complex situations in both calm and stressful times.
Most of his professional life was in healthcare administration where he partnered in entrepreneurial ventures and administered healthcare companies, clinics and physician practices. The common thread in each work situation was the development and use of organizational and problem-solving skills that have been critical to providing successful estate organizing and management services.
Along with those skills, his service requires the human skills of providing assistance and guidance during times of fear, uncertainty, confusion and upheaval. Spending years in cancer care and reproductive health (including patient contact in both fields) and guiding family members and friends through difficult times, he honed these skills as well.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is: www.davidbgill.com