Estate Planning: Final Instructions

The Elephant in the Room: How to Prepare Your Family for “The End”

Expanded from the October 3, 2019 article in PMEA Retired Member Network eNEWS.

 

Few people want to talk about it… what co-authors Shoshana Berger and BJ Miller discuss in their book, A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death:

It may sound morbid, but creating a findable file, binder, cloud-based drive, or even shoe-box where you store estate documents and meaningful personal effects will save your loved ones incalculable time, money, and suffering. “Why You Need to Make a ‘When I Die’ File – Before It Is Too Late” (Berger and Miller)

Do you have a Will? A Power of Attorney? A Living Will or Medical Power of Attorney?

According to their TIME blogpost at https://time.com/5640494/why-you-need-to-make-a-when-i-die-file-before-its-too-late/?utm_source=pocket-newtab, here are a few things you will want to put into your “When I Die” file/folder:

  • An advance directive that is signed and notarized
  • A will* and living trust
  • Marriage or divorce certificates
  • Passwords for phone, computer, email, and social media accounts
  • Instructions for your funeral and final disposition
  • An ethical will*
  • Letters to loved ones

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* Where a legal will transfers assets, an ethical will transfers immaterial things: your life lessons and values. For a discussion on the latter, seek out the book Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper by Dr. Barry Baines.

Berger and Miller also recommended to purchase and set-up an online password manager to safeguard your data and share the master password with someone you trust. (For more info on password management software, read my “tech rant” blog here.)

With greater detail, we also learn from https://www.wealthmanagement.com/news/final-letter-instructions-family-important the importance of leaving a “final letter of instructions” to your loved ones. The website reports what Neuberger Berman Trust Company advises should be archived in a document to be read after your death.

  • The location of all estate planning documents, such as wills and trust agreements
  • A list of relevant advisors with contact information
  • List of other people to contact on your death
  • Location of any safe deposit boxes, inventory list, location of keys, who is authorized to open
  • List of life insurance policies, location and beneficiaries
  • List of bank accounts and how they are titled
  • Investment and trust account information
  • A description of other assets
  • Any debts or other liabilities
  • Listing of all credit card accounts
  • Inventory of other important documents like deeds and titles, and where they are held
  • Location of keys to all residences
  • Description of any pension benefits and who to contact
  • Instructions concerning funeral or memorial services

They add that this document should be held by your attorney, spouse, and adult children.

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What would you say to those nearest and dearest to you if you couldn’t (or didn’t) tell them in person? Consider writing individual letters to your partner, children, or other family members “as a way of leaving a few last words.” Check out Frish Brandt’s inspiring website, “Last[ing] Letters.”

A Lasting Letter is a letter written to someone you care about, someone who you wish to hear your voice and read your words long into the future. Sometimes referred to as a ‘legacy letter,’ this letter holds the words that carry one’s voice forward in time.

The letter can take many forms: long or short, a memento of a moment or a history of a lifetime, a connection made or missed, an instruction or a confession, a love letter, and everything in between. 

Each letter is ​unique: each voice, each intention is ​individual.

Everyone has a letter in them​.https://www.mylastingletters.com/ (Brandt)

Finally, in their July 25, 2019 YouTube video recorded at the Commonwealth Club (https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/video/beginners-guide-end-life), Berger quoted the framework by Ira Byock “The Four Things That Matter Most… to say to someone before you die” (yet another book): https://irabyock.org/books/the-four-things-that-matter-most/:

  • “Please forgive me.”
  • “I forgive you.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “I love you.”

And one more that was added later: “I am proud of you.”

PKF

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Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com:

 

T-Minus Three Years… and Counting!

Countdown to a Smooth and Satisfying Retirement

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Are you retired, retiring this year or next, or thinking about “Crossing the Rubicon” to post-employment bliss over the next three or more years?

According to Ken Dychtwald, psychologist, gerontologist, and CEO of Age Wave, research on aging, health, and work issues defines five stages of retirement:

  • Stage 1: Imagination (5 to 15 years before retirement)
  • Stage 2: Anticipation (1 to 5 years before retirement)
  • Stage 3: Liberation (first year of retirement)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Stage 4: Re-engagement (1 to 15 years after retirement)
  • Stage 5: Reconciliation (ages late 70s and early 80s)

As reported by USA TODAY at https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/10/12/five-stages-of-retirement/16975707/, these first three stages provide opportunities to rethink, recharge, reinvent, and even retool new ways to redefine one’s life-purpose and meaning, become productive, and begin that new chapter in their lives. The studies emphasize the need for the famous Boy Scouts’ motto – “be prepared” – and you should start reflecting on “what you are going to be when you grow up” at least three years prior to “the big day!”

Many people want to continue to work. In fact, 72% of pre-retirees, age 50 and older, say they want to keep working after they retire, according to a recent survey sponsored by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave. Almost half (47%) of current retirees either are working, have worked, or plan to work in retirement, the survey found.

Many people also want to devote more time to their family and friends. Some want to continue to learn, and others want to enjoy their favorite hobbies and develop new ones…

— Ken Dychtwald

The bottom line is, as suggested in “Retire Happy – What You Can Do Now to Guarantee a Great Retirement” in the USA TODAY/Nolo Series by Ralph Warner and Richard Stim, prior to leaving the work force, you should make a concerted effort to anticipate “life after work,” including:

  • Cultivate interests outside work
  • Lead a healthier lifestyle
  • Revitalize family relationships
  • Spend more time with spouse
  • Embrace spirituality or meditation
  • Nurture friendships and make new friends.

 

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FIRST THINGS FIRST

So, are YOU ready to retire from full-time music teaching? Are you sure?

For me, I cry out HURRAY for the FREEDOM, and enthusiastically take on exploring raising puppies, home improvements, more personal music making, conducting, writing, photography, community service, and volunteer work. And, as you can imagine, my calendar is as full as it has ever been!

However, not all of our newly retired colleagues feel the same way… at least, not at first. It should be said that not everyone may be ready to retire. Often heard employment complaints aside, “be careful for what you wish!” In general, few are ambivalent about this transition… leaving the day-to-day highly pressured, detailed, “rat-race” most music teachers embrace to jumping into the wide-open horizons of new vision, focus, and directions. Recent retirees either love or hate this “passage.”

— Paul K. Fox

If you are not sure of your current mental and financial preparation for retirement, checkout “7 Signs It’s Time to Retire” at http://www.plannersearch.org/financial-planning/7-signs-its-time-to-retire, and equally as important, “Ten Signs It’s Not Okay to Retire” at http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/021716/10-signs-you-are-not-ok-retire.asp.

Have you seen this quote by Dr. Robert P. Delamontagne from his book Retiring Mind (Fairview Imprints, 2010), which provides statistics that are actually a little alarming?

50% of retirees will suffer some form of acute emotional distress. This is potentially a very large problem given the fact that 10,000 people are becoming eligible for Social Security every day for the next 20 years in the US alone.

— Dr. Robert P. Delamontagne

I also recommend taking the quiz, “Are You Psychologically Ready for Retirement?” at http://www.nextavenue.org/quiz-are-you-psychologically-ready-for-retirement/ from the book, Happy Retirement: The Psychology of Reinvention by Kenneth S. Shultz (DK Publishing, 2015), asking these five essential questions:

  1. How important is your job when it comes to getting a sense of life satisfaction?
  2. How many non-work activities do you have that give you a sense of purpose?
  3. How do you imagine your life to be once you stop working?
  4. How do you think retirement will affect your relationship with family and friends?
  5. How much energy for work do you have these days?

 

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HAVE A PLAN

In the article “Are You Emotionally Ready to Retire?” published by the Wisconsin Medical Journal, Maureen E. Hansen illustrates the need for an “emotional retirement plan.” (Please visit https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/_WMS/publications/wmj/pdf/103/4/53.pdf).

The transition from a structured to an unstructured lifestyle can be unnerving if you are not prepared. When our clients retire, they often feel as if they are on vacation for the first month or so. After that, the realization that they are not returning to work starts to sink in. This is when anxiety can creep in. However, the process of adjusting can be far less stressful if you establish a plan well in advance.

— Maureen E. Hansen

She emphasizes that both financial and non-financial aspects of retirement need to be addressed. “Long before your going-away party at the office, you need to decide what you want for your retirement—leisure time, volunteer work, establishing a legacy?” Here are her several key issues to consider:

  1. Set lifestyle goals.
  2. Build a network.
  3. Consider your spouse’s feelings.
  4. Live your dream.

From Bankrate (http://www.bankrate.com/retirement/10-things-to-do-before-you-retire/), here is a checklist of considerations you should revisit as often as necessary before taking the retirement plunge:

  1. Prepare a balance sheet
  2. Get rid of debt
  3. Conduct a house check
  4. Assess life insurance needs
  5. Think about long-term care insurance
  6. Consider variable annuities
  7. Oversee estate planning
  8. Ditch college expenses
  9. Look at the big picture with a planner
  10. Prepare a budget

The Internet is deluged with a multitude of recommendations on retirement prep. Here are couple more to peruse at your leisure:

 

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DOWN TO MORE SPECIFICS

In the August 26, 2017 PMEA Retired Member Network eNEWS, I shared the link to the AARP blog-post “10 Steps to Get You Ready for Retirement” at http://www.aarp.org/work/social-security/info-05-2011/10-steps-to-retire-every-day.html, with the following “executive summary” (but be sure to read the entire article for the detail):

  • Step 1: Define Your Retirement
  • Step 2: Take Stock of Your “Assets”
  • Step 3: Evaluate Your Health – Now
  • Step 4: Determine When to Collect Social Security
  • Step 5: Network Through Social Media & Other Methods
  • Step 6: Decide How Much You Want (or Need) to Work
  • Step 7: Create a Retirement Budget
  • Step 8: Find New Ways to Cut Your Expenses (Start Saving More)
  • Step 9: Prepare for the Unexpected
  • Step 10: Stick to Your Plan

I also offered my (now) “top-seven tips” for getting ready to “living the dream” for future PA music educator retirees:

  1. Download the Ultimate Retiree Resource Guide and peruse the myriad of contributions by “true experts in the field of retirement” posted on the PMEA retired member website: https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ultimate-retiree-resource-guide-111717.pdf.
  2. Scan through the plethora of other blog-posts at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/for-retirees/ and the official PMEA Retired Members’ website: https://www.pmea.net/retired-members/.
  3. Purchase a book or two by the “masters” of retirement transitioning (check out these authors and others from the sources above: David Borchard, Julie Cameron, Robert Delmontagne, Dave Hughes, Steven Price, Kenneth Shultz, Hyrum Smith, Verne Wilson, and Ernie Zelinski).
  4. Family Meeting: If you are married, sit down with your spouse (with no distractions) and map out the essential “who, what, when, where, and how” of retirement. Are you both ready to venture into your “golden years?” Are you and your wife/husband on the same page?
  5. dad-1-tommi-gronlundPSERS (PA pension fund) Planning: 12 months or more away from your projected retirement date, attend a “Foundations for Your Future” program (even attend it more than once), and request a retirement estimate (form PSRS-151), after which you will need to schedule the all-important “Exit Counseling Session.”
  6. Make an appointment with an estate planner, elder attorney, and/or financial advisor (probably all three). Bring a copy of your bank and investment statements, PSERS reports, social security, annuities, and insurance documents. You may need help in determining which PSERS “plan” to adopt. While you’re at it, update your will and other legal documents.
  7. To stay “connected” with your professional associations (e.g. Pennsylvania Music Educators Association and National Association for Music Education), be sure to update your personal profile at “headquarters” with your personal (not school) email address. Continue to participate in music and education, and reap the benefits of significantly discounted retired membership dues and conference registration fees. See the blog-post “PMEA in Retirement – What’s in it for Me?” at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/pmea-in-retirement-whats-in-it-for-me/.

Finally, if you have not done so, I encourage you to revisit my last retirement blog-post   (https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/new-dreams-and-horizons/). Review those six essential things to do when you are a couple years “out” from making that “great leap to freedom,” solid advice from TIPS – Retirement for Music Educators book by Verne A. Wilson (MENC 1989), and to learn more about “nipping in the bud” those pesky retirement conundrums:

  1. Self-Identity and Change
  2. Free Time?
  3. Energy and Fortitude
  4. Losing Control and Perpetual Care

Yes, planning ahead makes all the difference. On this topic, our last inspiration also comes from TIPS – Retirement for Music Educators.

If you were planning to spend the rest of your life in another country, you would want to learn as much about it as possible. You would read books about the climate, people, history, and architecture. You would talk to people who had lived there. You might even learn a bit of its language. Old age is like another country. You’ll enjoy it more if you have prepared yourself before you go.

— B. F. Skinner and Margaret Vaughn

Best wishes for a happy retirement!

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PKF

© 2017 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits from FreeImages.com (in order): “Happy Days” by Crissy Pauley, “Senior with Red Wine” by Walter Groesel, “Hour-Glass” by Aleksandra P., “Old Couple” by Ricardo Santengini, and “Senior Portraits 2” by Loretta Humble, “Senior Portraits 1” by Loretta Humble, “Dad 1” by Tommi Gronlund, and “Senior Portraits 4” by Loretta Humble.