Some years, Father’s Day hits me like a ton of bricks. I lost my father 15 years ago and it doesn’t seem like a day goes by where it doesn’t hurt. On the flip side, I’m the father and step-father of two boys that fill my heart with joy and excitement – with the possibilities for their future.
Father’s Day is a moment for me to contemplate my Dad’s legacy and my own.
I honestly didn’t talk to my own father a whole lot about money. He tried to shield my siblings and me from the stresses of life out of our control.
That said, I still always thought of him as conservative with money. It was rare to see him buy a new car and when he did, it was a base model. He never mentioned what he made, but I somehow knew he was middle class, if not a little better off than most. Now that I was asked a question about money and Father’s Day, I asked myself, “how did I know all of this if we never really talked about it?”
Having difficult conversations
During the final years of his cancer fight, he brought me into his financials more to prepare for his eventual passing. A horrible topic for anyone at any age, but especially rough for me. I was barely 20 and was just learning to take care of my own son.
Taking some steps to tackle the tough stuff
There were so many hard discussions neither one of us wanted to have, but realized it had to be covered. As a son, I was forced to grow up. As a father, he was forced to accept that there was no other choice but to confront his own mortality. I didn’t quite grasp the gravity of what he was doing.
I didn’t grasp that what he was doing was one of the most paternal things he could do – prepare for his family to have a plan once he was gone.
It was during these discussions and meetings with his estate attorney that I learned everything I had sensed as his son about his financial situation was pretty accurate. He wasn’t rich but was in a secure financial position because he lived within his means. His four children occupied a huge part of his finances, but we didn’t really know what those expenses were.
Be transparent about your estate plan with the whole family
After he passed away, emotions and lack of transparency did what they will always do. My father didn’t share anything with my siblings about his estate. That created questions and some head-butting initially during the estate process.
I was so stubborn that I was going to make what we had talked about happening come hell or high water. At 23, I lacked the communication skills to convey our plans. All of those issues worked themselves out, but I do sometimes wish I had better communication skills at that point of my life and he had shared more with my siblings.
Though the youngest of my siblings were still in high school, I think the shock of the discussion would have been outweighed by having some clarity as to his wishes.
I mention all of this because fathers and their children should not only have a plan but communicate it.
If you are a father, have a plan. If you have a father, be open to that plan.
While it wasn’t perfect (and I doubt they ever can be), I’m so very thankful that my Dad had the forethought to plan for the tough situations. More importantly, I’m thankful he had the courage to give me guidance for his estate. I could only imagine how horrible it would have been if he had not been strong enough to sit me down and talk about it
Clarity will bring a sense of calm, even in the most stressful of times.
When it comes to loss, these are dark and treacherous waters we are navigating. But think of estate planning like captaining a ship. If you’re unsure of your navigation in a storm, you’re more likely to be in jeopardy than a captain who knows they’ve steered the ship well – less likely to run aground.
Think about the future
Fathers are humans and it is common to worry about the things right in front of you. Planning for things that are not right in front of you might take the sting out of it once they finally are. No one wants to leave their kids a mess to clean up, but not planning and communicating will do that.
Your legacy is more than what you leave your children financially
Give your children one last bit of wisdom by being clear about your wishes. As a son or daughter, don’t shy away from this discussion because it will also give your father peace knowing everyone is on the same page.
Want to learn more?
Legacy planning is a financial strategy that prepares people to pass their assets to a loved one. Check out the Legacy Check in Nav.it.