What You Owe Your Loved Ones

Time with family

In the past few weeks I’ve been doing my best to simplify my financial life. I made the decision to make this a priority after I asked myself what would I do if I only had 6 days to live.

As I worked on this project I started thinking more about what would give me comfort and peace when it comes to my relationship with the people I care about the most—now and every day.

After a few meditations on the subject I came up with three main areas I want to share with you today. I list them below in this sequence but you can start on any one of them or work on more than one simultaneously.

Take care of yourself

This is something I don’t fully adhere to—and I doubt I’m alone. In order to be there for your loved ones you need to be the best person you can be.

Taking care of yourself means:

  • You make it a priority to rest and get enough sleep every night.
  • You exercise regularly and eat the healthiest foods you can afford.
  • You give yourself time alone to meditate or reflect and renew if and when you need to.
  • You allow yourself to work on projects you’re passionate about and have as much fun as you can.
  • You foster relationships with the people you care about and respect.

These are the basic steps but you can add anything that energizes you and enhances your inner and physical wellbeing.

Arrange your affairs

Right now I feel that not only do I have an obligation to leave my finances in the simplest form possible but also all of my affairs. The more organized and clear you are about what would happen after you’re gone, the easier it is for your family to deal with it—and that is an act of love and kindness on your part that they will appreciate.

To organize your life start with the following actions:

Simplify your finances. I will write about this in more detail in the future but for now focus on these two steps:

  • Prepare a list of your bank/investing and retirement accounts. Write down the access codes and details that someone would need to know.
  • Create another list of the bills you pay and online access if needed. Add to that list any loans/mortgage you have.

Between those two lists someone should be able to tell what you own and owe. Don’t leave these documents on your computer. Keep a physical copy, preferably with your will.

Simplify your possessions. If you have a lot of stuff that you think would be a pain for your loved ones to deal with, get rid of as much as you can now.

Use the usual system of throw out, give away, or sell.

If you want to keep some stuff to give away after you’re gone, organize such items in a way that can be easily picked up and make sure to include the instructions in your will.

Prepare a will. This is something I did a few years back. It was tough to do I admit. No one likes to think about death and its aftermath. But if we want to be honest with ourselves, it’s going to happen no matter what. The sooner we accept this fact the better.

In your will you will address the disposal of your possessions, name your executor and beneficiaries as well as specifying funereal arrangements. Your will can be modified any time.

If you don’t have an overly complex estate, you can buy one of those legal kits and use it or you can work with a notary public.

If things are more complicated, spend some time and money working with a professional to get your affairs in order.

Consider a living will. I’m not sure what the legal term would be in other countries. Also, this document may not be legally enforceable. But it can give your loved ones clarity about your wishes.

It basically states what you’d want if you ever need life support and if you don’t wish to be kept alive by artificial means.

This is one of the toughest documents to sign, but it’s a relief for you and your family. They’ll appreciate you absolving them from making one of the most painful decisions.

You may also add a power of attorney naming someone to act on your behalf if you don’t have a next of kin. Please note that a power of attorney won’t be valid after death. It’s useful in situations when you’re alive but incapacitated.

Arranging your affairs is something that might trigger pain and fear. But it is worth it; you’re doing it to make life easier for others around you. It’s a wonderful act of kindness and love. Remind yourself that the peace of mind is worth the pain of getting a few things done now.

Be fully present

Presence is the state where we need to be when we are with the people we love.

Time is everything. Cherish the time you have with them. Listen and be there for them.

We’re all passersby. Remind yourself that you or them may not be here one day and that every moment counts. Make the best of your time with the few that matter the most.

Give. Be generous with your attention and energy. Lend a sympathetic ear when needed without judgment or interruption.

Share. Be fully in the experience with all your heart and being. Share a laugh, or a cry … an adventure or a lazy day in bed. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re fully there.

We are fortunate to be alive, to have people we care about and who care about us. The more we honor this love by simplifying our lives and affairs the more peace and joy we inject into the relationship.

Life is full of surprises; regardless of your age, health, or financial position I urge you to start now.

If you feel there is a lot to be done, start with one single step today. More importantly, become more aware of your actions. Don’t add more complexity to your life—for your own and your family’s sake.

May you live a long and prosperous, yet simple and always loving life.